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Our View: Political theatre to distract us from real issues

Solidarity leader Eleni Theocharous

NOTHING beats the theatre we are subjected to during election time, with the party leaders always taking the same role. When they are not advocating the squandering of the taxpayer’s money in exchange for votes, they all act as the champions of political probity and transpar-ency. Of course they are not so committed to transparency when it comes to divulging of the identity of contributors to party funds. They have been doggedly refusing to share this infor-mation with the voters for reasons they have never convincingly explained.

This is why their obsession with the Lagarde list and now the Mossack Fonseca emails can only be viewed as theatre. All are anxious to find out whether the individuals on the Lagarde list had paid their taxes and supposedly want to know on whose behalf the Cypriot lawyers mentioned in the Panama papers were acting. Solidarity leader Eleni Theocharous said she wanted to know the real beneficiaries of accounts handled by the lawyers, knowing full well this was unlikely to ever happen.

Meanwhile, AKEL chief Andros Kyprianou also had to make an issue about the Lagarde list and the Panama papers, demanding that these were investigated to establish if tax evasion had been committed and whether politically exposed persons (PEP) were on these lists. He probably had not heard outgoing House president Yiannakis Omirou announce, after a meeting with the head of the Inland Revenue Department, that there were no PEPs on the Lagarde list. Some 88 individuals on the list had been investigated and income tax totalling €35 million had been imposed, Omirou announced.

This did not deter Kyprianou from trying to exploit what was a non-issue. He also re-introduced another dead issue about the ‘illegal’ transfer of money from Cyprus banks abroad during the period of the haircut in 2013. People had the right to know and the names of the culprits had to be made public, he said. How many times does it need to be explained that individuals that transferred money before the capital controls were in place had done nothing illegal? If there were transfers when the banks had been closed and accounts frozen, the re-sponsibility was the Central Bank’s which was run by a governor that obediently followed AKEL’s orders.

These are all diversionary tactics, used by calculating party leaders to hide their double standards. AKEL for instance had used a series of front companies, just like those used by the lawyers in the Panama papers, to cover the trail of the money it received from Andreas Vgenopoulos via Focus Maritime. DISY had also received a large amount of money from Focus but did not try to deny it like AKEL did. Surely the voters have the right to know who has been funding our political parties ahead of elections. This is much more useful and necessary information than who transferred money out of the banks in 2013.

The party bosses will keep talking about the Lagarde list, Panama papers and 2013 money transfers because they hope this would made voters forget that a former DIKO mayor is prison for corruption, a DISY mayor is facing charges of corruption, an EDEK deputy is on trial for corruption and AKEL’s financial director is doing time for extortion. They do not have the moral authority to pontificate against corruption. Even on the issue of tax evasion, deputies should tread carefully considering that they have exempted themselves from paying in-come tax on half their earnings, a privilege no other citizen of the Republic enjoys.

All this theatre and mock indignation about corruption fools nobody. If the party bosses want to be taken seriously when they are condemning corruption, tax evasion and other financial crimes they need to come clean about their party finances. They must publish the name of every party donor next to the amount he or she has given. State contractors would be less inclined to make donations to every party after fleecing the taxpayer if their names were made public. Transparency is imperative if public life is ever to be cleaned up and the pontificating party leaders need to set the example.

Only then would people stop dismissing their ranting and raving against corruption as pure theatre.

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