It was the police and not the Legal Service that is carrying out the investigation into the controversial acquisition of a Russian bank, Attorney-general Costas Clerides said on Wednesday, responding to criticism over the perceived delays.
“I want to stress once more that in our system in Cyprus, it is not the attorney-general who takes statements,” Clerides said. “It is not the Legal Service that carries out the investigation.”
On Tuesday, MPs questioned what they see as delay in investigating the acquisition of Uniastrum by Bank of Cyprus in 2008 for around €370mln, amid rumours that kickbacks were given to make the deal happen. The lender was sold this year for €7mln and after BoC lost some €700mln.
Clerides said it was the police that carried out investigations, or specific investigators in other cases.
“The Legal Service and the attorney-general are there to provide – and they do so each time it is requested – guidance and advice on the way a particular investigation must be carried out,” Clerides said.
The attorney-general said he was not blaming anyone.
“On the contrary, I do not see any blame or responsibility. I am just clarifying that the investigating team is really doing good work and there are answers to all the questions raised yesterday (Tuesday),” he said.
Clerides said one could not question someone on suspicion alone, before collecting the necessary evidence.
He added that investigators have asked various countries – Russia, Armenia, UK, Belize, and others — for assistance concerning the case.
Clerides said he has asked the police do provide some explanation, which would allay the lawmakers’ concerns.
A statement by police chief Zaharias Chrysostomou revealed they were on the same page reiterating that investigations were conducted by the police under the guidance of the legal service.
MPs appeared surprised on Tuesday after they were told that people who were involved in the matter, like Central Bank officials, and former BoC CEO Andreas Eliades, had not yet been questioned.
“As far as comments that were made public regarding delays in investigating cases concerning the collapse of the economy, the investigative team that has been appointed to investigate the cases with expert help, is working tirelessly, methodically, sensitively and always in close cooperation with the legal service to complete the particularly difficult and complicated investigation that involves a wide range of economic activities,” Chrysostomou said in a statement.
He added they were waiting for replies from banks and foreign authorities regarding the acquisition of Uniastrum by the Bank of Cyprus.