By Angelos Anastasiou
A warrant for the arrest of Finance Minister Harris Georgiades was issued by the Nicosia District court, after he failed to show up at the hearing of a lawsuit filed against him and the now-defunct Cyprus Airways board of directors, despite having been properly notified via a bailiff, it emerged on Wednesday.
The warrant was later withdrawn and the lawsuit against him suspended by Attorney- general Costas Clerides shortly after the ruling.
Georgiades and the CY board are being indicted by the former carrier’s employees, who demand the promised injections of government money to their severely cash-strapped provident fund, which have not yet been made.
The bone of contention was a promise made by the government to cover a €12.5 million shortfall in the employees’ provident fund with €10 million of taxpayer money, out of which employees would receive their provident fund payments following the company’s disbandment.
Although the money was paid into the provident fund as promised, employees were asked to sign a waiver on future claims against the company or the government before their provident fund payments were released.
“This is unconstitutional,” the employees’ representative Harris Theocharous told the Cyprus Mail, referring to the proposed waiver.
“Those who signed it have already been paid their provident fund, but 350 former employees refused to sign it, and five of them took the legal route against the CY board. Two wanted to include the finance minister on the charge sheet.”
This was the second time the Finance minister failed to appear in court, but it was determined that the first time – early in October – was not his fault as the summons had been improperly delivered to his secretary, instead of him personally.
This time, however, the court ruled that he had been properly informed of the suit against him, and he had an obligation to appear in court.
When it was established that he would not be arriving, the court rescheduled the hearing for November 10, and issued an arrest warrant against him, executable on this date.
Shortly after this development, Attorney-general Costas Clerides confirmed he intervened to have warrant withdrawn as the finance minister should not be facing trial.
The AG said the court’s ruling relates to a private criminal case, which was filed “in connection with alleged dues to the members of the Cyprus Airways’ Provident Fund”.
“In our view, the Finance minister’s name was included among those of the defendants erroneously and irregularly,” Clerides said.
For this reason, he added, he had the arrest warrant against Georgiades rescinded.
“The arrest warrant was cancelled following a motion by the plaintiff’s lawyer, who had initially asked for its issuance,” Clerides said.
“The case against the Finance minister – with regard to the minister only – has been suspended.”
Amidst the unfolding crisis, the Finance ministry issued a statement that implied that it has no intention of engaging in dialogue over any aspect of the settlement with former CY employees.
“With regard to the payment of concessions to former employees of Cyprus Airways whose employment was terminated during or after October 2012, the Finance ministry informs those who have not completed the required documentation to claim the concessions that the final date to do so is November 16, 2015,” the statement said.
“This can be done at the offices located at 109 Prodromou street, Floor 1, Strovolos, Nicosia (Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 3:30 pm, and Friday from 9 am to 1 pm). It is noted that, after this date, no applications will be accepted, and the concessions will not be available following the end of the fiscal year.”