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Cyprus

No criminal offence in row over patrol boats, audit office says

File photo

No criminal offences appear to arise in the case of the problematic patrol vessels procured by the police from Taiwan, in a deal that an opposition MP claimed smacked of conflict of interest as it involved a company with links to the president.

The matter emerged during a discussion in parliament on Thursday, where it was heard that a company in which the president’s in-laws were involved, had interests in the deal.

Not long after, President Nicos Anastasiades asked the auditor-general to “immediately” investigate the allegations suggesting his in-laws had been favoured in the tender for the procurement of four patrol boats.

“I shall tolerate from no one the slightest imputation that I favoured anyone, be it a family relative or not, with regard to a public tender,” he said.

Andreas Hasapopoulos, head of the audit service’s technical audit department, told state radio that their probe had determined that problems did exist but no one had been informed.

Despite this, at first glance, Hasapopoulos said, there didn’t appear to be a criminal case to answer to but “possible disciplinary offences” did arise.

Hasapopoulos said the company that appeared as the agent of the Taiwanese shipbuilder had no connection with the government.

Its director, the partner of the president’s son-in-law in other business, Hasapopoulos said.

“There is no issue,” he added.

However, there were still questions that had to be answered. One being why an inspection certificate signed by a French expert in Taiwan was dated December 28, 2015, when the boat had already been delivered in Cyprus on December 17.

It had been suggested that the discrepancy lies in the fact that the inspector dated the document on the day he had signed it and not the day of the survey.

Along with that, the audit service will also probe why the contract had been amended without approval and why guarantees had been accepted that were not included in the conditions.

There was also the matter of not claiming compensation, a right afforded by the contract when the vessels remained inactive for more than 20 days due to technical problems.

Another matter that raised eyebrows is the fact that the correspondence with the Taiwanese company was done through the company with links to Anastasiades’ in-laws.

That company, it was said, appeared as the agent after the contract had been signed.

The shareholders and partners in that company are Christos Chrysostomou, Theofanis Philippou, a managing director at the law firm the president founded, and Andis Loutsios.

The tender was initially awarded to an Italian firm but it went to the tender review board following an appeal file by the Taiwanese company.

The lawyer representing the appellant was Nicholas Christofinis, a lawyer at Nicos Anastasiades’ law firm, according to Akel MP Irini Charalambidou.

The boats had been plagued with problems, which required the replacement of their engines, she said.

MPs were told however, that no extra taxpayer money had been spent.

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