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Cyprus

Government trying to ‘water down’ wealth declarations list

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou

Members of the House legal affairs committee on Wednesday accused the government of seeking to water down a bill regulating the submission of state officials’ assets and source of funds statements as well as whether the statements should be published.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the government is now proposing that only the statements of politically exposed persons be published.

This would apply to presidents of the Republic, ministers and MPs. Their statements would also include the assets of their spouses and children.

Nicolaou also believes that civil servants should be exempted altogether from the obligation to submit statements, as these persons are subject to disciplinary procedures.

For his part, Attorney-general (AG) Costas Clerides, a former Supreme Court judge himself, also opposes including its judges on the list of people required to submit statements.

Citing constitutional grounds, Clerides likewise wants to exclude from the obligation to submit statements the following: the attorney-general, the deputy attorney-general, the governor and deputy governor of the Central Bank, the auditor-general, as well as independent officials, such as the Commissioner for Electronic Communications and Postal Services, the head of the Cyprus Energy Regulatory Authority, and the Commissioner for Personal Data Protection.

All the above are included in a list prepared by the House legal affairs committee, as are media owners and bank directors.

Clerides further argues that officials accountable to EU law must also be exempted. He says parliament is attempting to amend Article 15 of the constitution, which concerns a person’s right to privacy. As such, any bill restricting that right must be backed by a pressing need.

The House committee is asking that the wealth and source of funds statements be published under certain conditions, such as when an individual’s statement is incomplete or false – a view which the AG’s office does not espouse.

Instead, the AG proposes that the statements are disclosed voluntarily by the concerned persons, but that that a person’s identity number or tax registration number be withheld.

Persons furnishing incomplete, misleading or inaccurate statements would be criminally liable.

According to the bill as originally drafted, the list of people who would have to file statements includes commissioners, judges, local authority officials, semi-government board members, and civil servants from the higher pay scales (A11) onwards.

The people on the list would have to submit a statement every 30 months. The statements would be audited by a committee – a separate one for every group.

Officials would also be obliged to submit a statement upon coming to office.

AKEL MP Aristos Damianou said he was “grieved” by the government’s apparent attempt to truncate the legislation.

MPs had wanted to vote on the bill before parliament is dissolved ahead of May’s elections, but that is looking increasingly unlikely.

 

 

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