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Little progress in Hasikos conflict of interest investigation

Interior minister Socrates Hasikos

 

The independent committee for the investigation of state officials’ conflicts of interest, which convened on Monday to look into claims of impropriety against Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos, did not make much headway and will continue deliberations on Thursday.

Hasikos was reported to the committee by auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides over the minister’s 60-per-cent stake in a company that won a contract for the renting of a building to the Civil Aviation Department in 2016.

Although the company has been renting the building to the department since 2007, Hasikos was not in breach because the contract had been signed prior to his appointment.

When the contract expired at the end of 2016, the interior minister’s company submitted a bid for the new contract, which it won over another company.

By law, elected and appointed state officials are precluded from doing business – “submitting bids or entering any contract to supply goods or services […] either themselves or through their companies […] to the public sector” – with the state during their terms in office.

Hasikos has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, arguing that renting out premises is neither “goods” nor a “service”.

Additionally, Hasikos’ defence attorney, former attorney-general Alecos Markides has challenged the validity of the committee’s standing, arguing that, although a law instituting it was passed in 2008, no regulations laying out procedures and release of its findings are in place.

According to daily Politis, the committee is currently mulling whether to issue a ruling or seek legal advice on Markides’ objection.

Being found in conflict by the committee, which sits in lieu of a court, constitutes grounds for dismissal.

The committee is chaired by a retired judge, appointed by the cabinet, and comprises three ex-officio members – the state treasurer, the House of Representatives’ general secretary, and an official from the Legal Service.

Committee chair is retired judge Andreas Agrotis, with Rea Georgiou, Vasiliki Anastasiades, and Elena Zachariadou, respectively, serving as committee members.

Agrotis holds a tie-breaking vote.

At Hasikos’ request, Georgiou has recused herself from the proceedings.

The minister claimed the state treasurer could not be impartial because Hasikos had submitted evidence against her husband to the attorney-general.

Although the committee voted that she could stay on, she volunteered her recusal.

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