POLICE investigators did an excellent job in establishing how a total of €2 million from Focus Maritime Corporation ended up in AKEL and DISY coffers in 2007 and 2008. Investigators found how the money was transferred to front companies, one of them based in the Virgin Islands, and auditing firms before ending up with the parties.
When the story broke, almost a year ago, AKEL had denied any such payments had been made and filed libel suits against the newspaper that first reported it. But when last week investigators gave details about the money trail – €1 million going to the Demetris Christofias election campaign in 2007 via a front company and €450,000 to AKEL in 2008 via an auditing firm – all the AKEL chief could say was that police investigators showed excessive zeal probing his party.
DISY covered its tracks a bit better, claiming the party had only received €50,000 which it subsequently returned. This was correct as another €450,000 went to a travel firm, via a front company, to pay for the air fares of DISY supporters brought to Cyprus to vote in the 2008 presidential elections. The case of the former Governor of the Central Bank Christodoulos Christodoulou was much clearer, the money going directly into a company registered in his daughter’s name less than three months after he left his post.
That all these payments were highly suspicious there can be little doubt. If these were innocent donations, the parties would not have taken so much trouble to conceal them nor would the donor – Andreas Vgenopoulos – have made them through a third party. Yesterday Vgenopoulos claimed he did not know Michalis Zolotas, the owner of Focus Maritime, so we are to believe that a random, Greek businessman, with no dealings in Cyprus decided to pay a total of €3 million to the two biggest parties and the ex-governor of the Central Bank.
What makes the story even more interesting was that the respective leaders of the two parties at the time of the donations were the next two presidents of the republic, but neither has been questioned by investigators yet. AKEL received €450,000 when Christofias was president. It is obvious that investigators would not be able to prove any link between the €1.45 million received by AKEL and the consistent support the AKEL government and its Central Bank governor gave Vgenopoulos, but the suspicions will not go away.
This is the problem with such cases. The police and the Attorney-General’s office have done commendable work in uncovering the money trail, but who would they prosecute – Zolotas for making donations to AKEL and DISY, Vgenopoulos for attempting to buy political influence or Anastasiades and Christofias for accepting the money as party leaders? And how could prosecutors prove that the money paid to the parties was for unlawful purposes?
This does not mean the work of the investigators was pointless. On the contrary, the investigation was very useful as it showed our parties and politicians in their depressingly, true colours.