Six bills have been prepared, two more are pending at the legal service and another draft bill has been tabled to the House in the fight against police corruption, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Monday.
Speaking after a meeting at the presidential palace chaired by President Nicos Anastasiades, Nicolaou said the six bills mainly relate to the composition and constitution of an internal audit service for the police.
“The service will be allocated specific powers and functions that can effectively investigate information or complaints related to corruption issues within the police,” the minister said.
Further, legislative measures aimed at combating corruption include the introduction of the right to access recorded communication, the obligation of top police officers to report their source of wealth, regulating the operation of undercover agents, preparing a draft bill to encourage whistleblowing by offering increased protection, and another to allow the lifting of privacy in communications for serious offences, including corruption and bribery.
The service will report directly to the chief of police and its investigations will be overseen by the attorney-general. Additional measures in the pipeline include stricter punishment for such offences, and criminalising the failure to report them. A new webpage to collect anonymous information will also be created, commensurate with the standards under which other European states operate such sites.
During the meeting suggestions were made for additional measures.
“For example, it emerged that the ratification of various conventions relating to corruption issues need us to change our general code as well as take measures for coordination between the various services of the state for parallel action in the prosecution of corruption and organised crime,” Nicolaou said.
Nicolaou said that police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou, who also attended the meeting, had informed them that some specific measures have already been taken, such as transfers for those who have been in their positions a long time, which is a contributing factor to corruption in the public service at large.
“These laws are essential in order to be an effective treatment for the phenomena of corruption in the police and certainly, at the same time, send out the message to all members of the force that now there is in operation an internal audit service with the power to act that is backed up by relevant legislation,” Nicolaou said.
He made it clear that those who exhibit corrupt behaviour were on the fringes of the force. “We want to send specific messages to all those involved in the underworld that tackling crime is entering a completely different era and will be more efficient and more effective,” he added.
The new bills will be moved through parliament quickly, Nicolaou said, adding that they would be given to party leaders on Tuesday. He hoped the process would be completed and the new laws in place in the coming months.