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Our View: Party funding leak is a matter of public interest

Former Laiki strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos

POLITIS revealed on Sunday that land developer Miltiades Neophytou told police investigators in March 2015 that a fundraising committee set up by Demetris Christofias’ campaign for the 2008 presidential election approved a £2 million donation by former Laiki strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos.

Neophytou stated to the police that the committee was told by Vangelis Georgiou that someone wanted to donate £0.5 million immediately, eventually offering £2 million. He added that the donor was close to Georgiou and Stavros Evagorou. “They wouldn’t disclose his name at first, but at our insistence they revealed he was Andreas Vgenopoulos,” the statement says.

The committee, Neophytou added, decided that Christofias should be notified in person because of the size of the donation. “Within days, I met with him and told him – his response was ‘we need the money, and we will take it’.

It’s not that this is a wholly new development in the long-running saga of Focus Maritime, the alleged front company through which the donations were made. Police investigators already found how the money was transferred, with one of the companies based in the Virgin Islands, and through auditing firms, before ending up with both AKEL, and DISY to a lesser extent. All AKEL – after an official denial – could say at the time was that police investigators showed excessive zeal probing the party.

Only the smaller parties, DIKO, the Greens and EVROKO had by yesterday issued brief and insipid statements on the Politis story. Most of the outrage it generated on Monday was limited to who had leaked the statement that Miltiades Neophytou had given to the police. Vgenopoulos issued a new denial that he had ever given money to AKEL but other than that there was a deafening silence from the main parties.

The attorney-general went on radio to announce that an internal police probe had been initiated into the leak, saying such things were “unthinkable”. Granted the AG is not in a position to comment on ongoing investigations but seemed more concerned that the leak might have been blamed on his office than elsewhere.

Police were equally outraged, saying such leaks “never assist investigations and justice.”

The investigation into the collapse of the economy has been going on for two years and no one has yet been held accountable. But it is difficult to see how a statement coming from someone like Miltiades Neophytou who was close to Christofias for many years, is not in the public interest, because if it is true, it just confirms people’s suspicions. Why didn’t AKEL come out and contradict the businessman’s statement, or even condemn the leak of part of an ongoing investigation? The silence speaks for itself. What the parties do behind closed doors, however dodgy, is never a matter of principle but how the public finds out about it is.

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