By Angelos Anastasiou
Attorney-general Costas Clerides’ remarks regarding “political circles” trying to “erode the credibility” of the Legal Service were misinterpreted, he said on Saturday, as he did not refer to direct political involvement but a softer campaign against him.
In a statement, Clerides denied having suggested that any efforts of political intervention in particular cases or investigations have been made.
“Responding to a series of questions concerning criticism for delays in investigations into possible criminal offences in connection with the collapse of our financial system, I made certain observations,” the AG said.
“That is, that some are interested and concerned in good faith for the long time investigations are taking, while others, for their own intentions and expediencies, use this issue to undermine the attorney-general, whom they identify with matters of police investigation.”
On Thursday, Clerides had told a TV news show host that he had been aware of instances where criticism against him, and the Legal Service, over delays in prosecuting suspects for Cyprus’ economic meltdown in 2013, were not driven purely by an interest in seeing justice done, but were merely the pretext in a bid to undermine him.
“There have been incidents where obvious attempts to impede our efforts aimed at eroding the credibility of the legal service, or the attorney-general personally,” he said.
Critics most often cite the lack of action against Greek financier Andreas Vgenopoulos – formerly the boss of now-defunct Laiki Bank – who is due to answer investigators’ questions on Monday in Athens. While publicly named by local politicians as the culprit of Laiki’s demise, at this stage Vgenopoulos will only be questioned on alleged share manipulation, for which he was fined an unprecedented €700,000 by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission in June 2014. Five Bank of Cyprus former top officials – including two CEOs – are already on trial on similar charges.
On Saturday, Clerides once again refrained from naming the people he was referring to, but clarified that he did not suggest direct political involvement had been attempted.
“This [undermining] effort is done in public and anyone can recognise it, with no naming necessary – as to motives and expediencies, these are also known to myself and many others, but for obvious reasons cannot be made public at present,” he said.
“However, I never suggested that there have been attempts at direct political intervention in particular cases or investigations, as my remarks were wrongly taken to mean. Rather, they took the form of deliberate dismissal of the hard work being done by both the police and the Legal Service.”