By Angelos Anastasiou
House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou on Wednesday asked President Nicos Anastasiades and Finance Minister Harris Georgiades to deliver a copy of the infamous ‘Lagarde’ list to his office, per the decision of a joint session of the House watchdog and ethics committees, he said.
He noted that the committees’ decision implied no distrust of the government authorities tasked with processing the list, which includes the names of individuals and companies with deposits at HSBC Switzerland in 2005 and 2006, but was intended as an additional safeguard against the risk of tampering or removal of entries.
“Following this decision, as Speaker of the House, I will ask the executive – the president and the finance minister – to meet the request,” Omirou said.
He pledged to ensure the list would not be leaked after delivery – an offence routinely attributed to members of parliament – claiming he is not responsible for processing the list.
“This is a task for the head of the Internal Revenue Department, who must determine whether the deposits and the depositors found on the list have met their tax obligations,” he said.
Omirou said that a 2014 treaty on taxation data exchange, ratified by 60 states, will come into effect in 2016, and Cyprus’ taxation authorities must be prepared to utilise it – as it has also been ratified by Switzerland – so that those with untaxed deposits are made to comply with their obligations.
Asked whether party leaders will be allowed access to the list, Omirou said no.
But, he added, should any politically exposed person be found as having failed to comply with tax laws, no one would be allowed to hide behind any laws to escape the law, meaning Omirou would, in such a scenario, consent to the disclosure of such a person’s identity and dealings.
AKEL deputy Aristos Damianou said the Lagarde list must be handled in a manner beyond reproach, which is why its delivery to the House Speaker’s office in raw form was requested.
“We have the bad experience of other countries, where the list was tampered with, and the experience with deposits and outflows during the haircut days,” he said.
A similar list was delivered to Greek authorities in 2010, but was kept in the drawers of the finance ministry until it was leaked to the press. It was later found that then finance minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou had removed the names of individuals related to him from the original document.
Damianou concurred that any politically exposed persons found on the list should not be subject to the same protection the law affords ordinary citizens.
“We are interested in upholding the law, and the irreproachable examination of the list,” he said.