Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Officials say probe into Focus slush funds not ‘political’

Andreas Vgenopoulos

By Angelos Anastasiou

AMIDST political cries to expedite the conclusion of investigation into the matter of party funding by Focus Maritime Corporation, a company owned by shipping magnate Michalis Zolotas who has been reportedly linked to former Laiki Bank strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos, both Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides and Attorney-general Costas Clerides yesterday defended the work done by investigators.

The investigation relates to revelations by daily Politis, according to which the ruling DISY and communist AKEL – the two largest parties in Cyprus – received a total of €2m in party financing from Focus in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. DISY’s Ioannis Kasoulides – currently the Foreign minister – and AKEL’s then-leader Demetris Christofias were the two candidates in the runoff election, with Christofias winning the race.

When the story broke in April 2014, AKEL fervently denied it had received any money from Focus and announced it would be suing the paper, while DISY acknowledged having received the sum of €50,000, which it returned to the failed bank’s administrator.

Meanwhile, Clerides was asked to launch an investigation into the matter, which he said on Wednesday is nearing conclusion.

The Attorney-general’s comments sparked a new round of controversy, with AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou claiming Clerides politicised the investigation and that investigators selectively targeted his party.

As well, opposition parties called for the immediate disclosure of the investigation’s findings.
Against this backdrop, Michaelides backed Clerides yesterday, saying his efforts to uncover the truth behind Focus and any party financing was “very good and significant”.

“It will help the parties themselves alter their outlook on this matter, as they come to understand that they need to abandon methods of the past and enter an age of transparency in their finances,” the Auditor-general said.

Late yesterday, Clerides himself rejected the selective targeting charges launched against him by Kyprianou.

“Investigations into the alleged funding of parties by Focus Maritime are ongoing in relation to all involved, with no discrimination against anyone,” he told the Cyprus News Agency.

“In some cases, investigation may be easier due to certain circumstances, while in others more cumbersome. Nonetheless, it continues undeterred until conclusion.”

The Attorney-general also denied his comments on Wednesday constituted a political intervention.
“It was merely an obligation to inform the public on the development of investigation, due to frequent allegations of burying the issue, ending investigations, placing the issue on the back burner, etc,” he said.

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