The extent of corruption in public life and the areas in which it was revealed in recent years, is greater than previously thought, according to Attorney-general Costas Clerides.
In an interview with Simerini newspaper, Clerides said it was not yet clear whether apparent increase was to due to more corruption or whether it was down to greater oversight but in any case, the message was that “impunity is nearing its end”, according to the report. Until now, he said it appeared state institutions were afraid to take action due to the political cost.
As for the issue of state officials’ immunity from prosecution Clerides revealed that the legal service was in the process of preparing a constitutional amendment that provided for protection from prosecution for public officials to be reduced and limited to what they will need to carry out their duties unhindered.
“The existence of corruption in public life has always been known and it is definitely not a Cypriot, but a global phenomenon. However” the extent of corruption and the sectors in which it is revealed in recent years have highlighted a problem that is bigger than what we thought,” Clerides said.
“it is of course still unclear whether the observed upsurge in revealing corruption is due to a real increase or whether it is simply the result of more effective and penetrating controls,” he added.
However, Clerides said he believes that the recent examples in which corruption offences reached the courts and those involved, irrespective of status were punished meant the message being given out was that “impunity is nearing its end”.
The AG said that some attacks against him and his office, far from being constructive criticism were not unrelated to the fact that legal steps had been taken in these cases.
“To the extent that some of these decisions relate to or have an impact on political persons or situations, I stress that to the Legal Service this is completely irrelevant,’ he said.
Clerides said he is not surprised by indirect influences to exert pressure but believes that the message would soon be received that this would “not be tolerated”.
The recent decisions of the Supreme Court on a waiver of parliamentary immunity “revealed, or rather confirmed, the finding that the existing constitutional provisions are anachronistic and provide an unnecessarily wide range for this privilege” the AG said.
Asked to comment on the attorney-general’s remarks later on Sunday, President Nicos Anastasiades said: “I do not think he was speaking of the present government. Bills for the removing or restricting immunity for both members of parliament and the President have been with the legal service since the first half of 2013. I am pleased that the attorney-general is moving forward with this,” the president said. “It is a very important modernisation proposal.”