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New laws needed to punish corrupt officers, says minister

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou

OFFICERS involved in corruption cases have no place in the police force, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou warned on Friday.

The minister attended the House Legal Affairs committee meeting where six bills were submitted aimed at amending the existing law and police regulations by providing more tools for the prosecution of cases of corruption and with harsher penalties.

As soon as the bills are voted by parliament, a police internal audit control will be set up – which will operate under the Attorney-general – and which will have the authority to collect, process, assess and investigate information concerning corruption cases within the police and to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by officers.

The bills also provide for amendments to the law and police regulations to facilitate the hearing of disciplinary corruption cases concerning police officers, the sacking of police officers sentenced for corruption, and for the freezing of promotion for officers convicted for a disciplinary offense for a period of time, depending on the severity of the case.

The amendments also provide for harsher administrative penalties, among others, with fines reaching €50,000.

“Police officers ought to stand out as regards high moral and trust and to have criteria, which are important factors in the performance of their duties,” Nicolaou said.

“Even those involved in corruption cases are few, they cause great damage, not so much to the image, but to the work of the police,” he said.  The corruption cases that officers are mainly involved in, he said, are linked to organised crime.

“Such a group of people, no matter how few they are, have no place in the police force,” Nicolaou said.

Commenting on a survey among police officers on corruption within the force, he said that the fact alone that corruption cases have been recorded, even by a few officers, was “alarming”.

“Police officers cannot behave in a manner as to conceal, tolerate, fail to report, cooperate, try to prevent a report or any information related to corruption,” he said.

The new bills aim to ensure the equal treatment of all officers before the disciplinary bodies as it is not uncommon for officers committing the same offence to receive different penalties, the minister said. He said that on one occasion an overly lenient penalty would be imposed, while on another, a very harsh one.

The head of the House committee, Giorgos Georgiou said that police corruption is a persistent phenomenon for which everyone bears responsibility.

“The existing system does not allow the expulsion of the corrupt. By clamping down on corruption, we also clamp down on organised crime,” Georgiou said.

He added that both the legislative body and political parties have the will to stamp out corruption within the police force.

Taking drastic measures to fill existing gaps is imperative, he said, as everyone knew of such phenomena “but we did not dare fight them”.

Akel MP Aristos Damianou said that there was no doubt that lately there were increased corruption cases within the police force, “culminating in the multiple murder case in Ayia Napa”.

The prevention and clamp down of this phenomenon, he said, must be a collective effort.

The presence of two police officers at the gangland hit against an Ayia Napa businessman last June, raised many questions as to their relations with the victim. The shooting ended in the deaths of four people, including one of the police officers and his wife. The two officers were having dinner with the businessman, Phanos Kalopsidiotis, in a restaurant he owns in Ayia Napa when gunmen stormed in with pistols and automatic weapons, showering the scene with bullets. Kalopsidiotis, the police officer, his wife, and one of two shooters, were all killed in the attack. The other officer, along with another person, was injured.

President Nicos Anastasiades had called for a full investigation into the involvement of the police officers in the incident.



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