By Elias Hazou
THE usually austere Attorney-general Costas Clerides revealed a lighter side to his character during a public discussion held last night.
Speaking at an event organised by the Association for Social Reform, titled “Democracy, politics and the rule of law,” Clerides chose to joke about his very public spat with his deputy.
“I began to jot down some notes for this speech. Later on, at some point while filling out my income tax return form for 2014, it hit me: should I have declared the bribes I took in 2013 for the year 2014?”
“But then I thought to myself: half of Cyprus wouldn’t do that, so why should I?”
Clerides was commenting on the allegations made against him by deputy Attorney-general Rikos Erotokritou.
Erotokritou claims Clerides stood to gain personally from a decision to halt criminal proceedings in the Providencia case, involving a Russian trust fund worth hundreds of millions. The prosecution had been initiated by Erotokritou, but was later revoked by Clerides.
On a more serious note, the Attorney-general said that, in the wake of the 2013 financial meltdown, Cyprus is going through a transitional phase, seeking to recover from a crisis of values.
“We suffered what we suffered, yet we are none the wiser,” Clerides said.
“It is often the case where actions or omissions by the executive or the legislative branches of government… are primarily dictated by the political cost they entail and not by the public interest.”
In his own talk, Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides proposed a way out of the conundrum where an independent state official turns both accuser and accused in the same case.
He too was alluding to the dispute between the Attorney-general and his deputy.
Michaelides suggested that the positions of deputies to independent state officials – a relic of the 1960 Constitution – be abolished.
Since it would take an act of parliament to amend the constitution to achieve this, and the current mindset is to leave the constitution untouched, Michaelides said the political parties should instead agree an informal policy where such positions are not filled once they are vacated.
The Auditor-general also revealed that his office would in the next few days complete its audit investigation into the Nicosia sewerage board, where public contracts are believed to have been awarded under questionable terms.
“We shall be forwarding this file to the Attorney-general, since it appears that this case, too, has a foul smell,” he said.