MUCH has been said and written about the police blunder (or was it a case of corruption?) in the handling of a tip-off about an underworld hit, received from Serbian Interpol, that was revealed at the weekend. There have been claims about a phone call being made from a pay-phone at Nicosia Central Prison, hit-men being met at Ercan airport and told to fly back, the police contacting the criminals planning the murder instead of Interpol, money being sent to a hit-man by a prison warden and much more.
Nobody really knows what to believe of all this. What everyone takes for granted is that corruption and incompetence exist side by side in the force, which would suggest that anything is possible. For instance the fact, confirmed by the police, that a policeman had called the prospective contract killer, instead of Serbian Interpol about the tip-off the latter had passed on, was described as ‘major gaffe’ by the media. This was because the police had categorically ruled out the possibility an officer had deliberately mishandled the tip-off and the media assumed (correctly) that the force was perfectly capable of such incompetence.
But if it were a blatant case of incompetence, why had police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou ordered an administrative investigation as soon as he was informed about mistaken phone call? And why had he ordered a disciplinary investigation against officer responsible if this was just a gaffe? It is because incompetence and corruption are so endemic that it is very difficult to distinguish between the two when attributing motives.
Chief Chrysostomou was quoted by Sigmalive as saying that “the big responsibility for the situations prevailing today in the police force belongs to the socio-political system of the country, through the appointments and transfers made in the past,” adding: “Now we are reaping what was sowed in the previous years.” Nobody could argue with the chief’s assertion as everyone knows the force is a hotbed of party rusfeti. Unsuitable people were hired, promoted and given favourable transfers thanks to backing from one of the parties, all of which engaged in this type of nepotism. Party links was also the reason, so few corrupt policemen have been investigated over the years – parties would always protect their own.
Meanwhile, after a meeting with the chief and the attorney-general, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou on Monday announced there would be a criminal investigation of the police handling of the contract killing tip-off. The government had to be seen to be doing something, especially as some parties were calling for Nicolaou’s resignation as if this would change anything. Funnily enough, two days before the latest revelation Nicolaou and Chrysostomou had given a joint news conference at which they pledged to fight corruption in the police and spoke about the measures that had been taken.
Their measures do not appear to have been very effective so far. The clean-up will take years to complete and this is assuming the parties stop calling the shots.