Cyprus Mail

Our View: MPs posture with one eye on 2016 elections

THERE might still be seven months to go, but it seems the parties have already begun operating with May’s parliamentary elections in mind. There could be no other explanation for the decision of the House Watchdog committee to discuss the big outflow of capital, in the period leading up to the March 2013 Eurogroup decisions and the closing of the banks.

The issue had been discussed exhaustively at House committees, a little over a year ago, and deputies had fully exploited it for populist diatribes and in order to pose as the guardians of the people. They failed to engage in a name-and-shame campaign and start a witch-hunt, however, because of banking confidentially regulations. As they had repeatedly been told at the time, individuals and companies that had moved funds out of the Cyprus banks before the first Eurogroup meeting and the decision to keep banks closed, had committed no offence.

This has not stopped them re-visiting the matter again this week. The chairman of the House Watchdog committee, Nicos Nicolaides said on Tuesday that his committee was investigating three periods – the period around 2012 when the state bought Laiki Bank for €1.8bn, the period prior to the haircut, between March 1 and 15, 2013 and the subsequent closed period. The latter was the only period in which transfers were prohibited and if these took place it is the banks that should be fined for violating the Central Bank’s rules, not companies and individuals.

But in the other two periods, deputies had no business investigating anything. People and businesses had every right to protect their money by withdrawing it from a bank that had to be bailed out by the state and the same applies to those who transferred their funds when the whole banking system was shaking. They found a pretext for keeping the issue alive, by bringing the inland revenue department into the fray, demanding that it was given the names of those who transferred funds in order to establish whether they were tax-evading.

And the funny part was that the head of the department, played along, complaining on Tuesday that the Central Bank had not furnished him with the information. It is all political party theatre. Tax inspectors investigating companies or individuals could ask for bank statements and find all the money transfers the deputies were moaning about. Money is being transferred out of Cyprus banks all the time; are deputies suggesting the Central Bank gives the names of companies and individuals to the tax authorities every time this happens because there are suspicions of tax evasion?

This is what the populists in legislature are claiming. Yesterday an AKEL spokesman was talking about the money transfers as if this were a big tax evasion scandal that the government was covering up. This is the kind of rabble-rousing, populist nonsense that we can look forward to for the next seven months.

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