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Cyprus

Authorities deny foot-dragging in economy probe

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, at police headquarters (File photo)

The police and the justice ministry have hit back at criticism that law enforcement is dragging its feet in investigating the 2013 economic meltdown.

Authorities, particularly the police, took flak this week after the Attorney-general told MPs that no individual involved with Bank of Cyprus’ loss-making acquisition of Uniastrum Bank has yet been questioned.

On Thursday, main opposition AKEL directly blamed the police, accusing the force of inaction for not bringing to justice those responsible for the economic disaster.

Responding, police spokesman Andreas Angelides dismissed the notion that authorities are deliberately delaying investigations or are being stymied by political pressure.

In a statement, Angelides said a 30-strong task force, assisted by foreign financial forensic experts, is working diligently probing the run-up to the 2013 financial collapse.

“It should be understood by everyone that these are not straightforward criminal cases, but rather especially complicated cases,” the police spokesman said.

Investigators cannot on a whim bring in people for questioning, they must first gather evidence against any one individual, he added.

Any delays in the probes are largely due to practical difficulties, such as the tardy response of foreign authorities to requests for judicial assistance.

“We fully understand citizens’ concerns and society’s demand for swift resolution of the economy-related cases. For the police, however, our priority is to investigate properly, so that these cases may hold up in court.”

Chiming in, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou likewise rejected suggestions of a cover-up.

Nicolaou also dismissed accusations that he is personally responsible for the delays.

On Tuesday, MPs questioned what they see as delay in investigating the acquisition of Uniastrum by Bank of Cyprus in 2008 for around €370m, amid rumours that kickbacks were given to make the deal happen. The lender was sold this year for €7m and after BoC lost some €700m.

Attorney-general Costas Clerides later told reporters that it was the police that carried out investigations, but clarified that he was not blaming anyone.



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