Cyprus Mail

Wealth statements draw derision

Green party leader Giorgos Perdikis

The source of wealth and funds statements of 75 public officials released to the public drew public derision on Tuesday.

Greens MP Giorgos Perdikis warned that the understandable controversy over the assets and income declarations might be used as a pretext by some to tinker with the relevant law again, and defang it even further.

On Monday, parliament published for the first time on its website the capital statements of the president and his 11 ministers along with the undersecretary to the president, the 56 MPs and six MEPs.

The statements are awash with inconsistencies and discrepancies, posing the question of whether the disclosure defeats the stated purpose of promoting transparency and checking whether public officials engage in unwarranted enrichment from holding office.

On social media, people were quick to pile on politicians for their improbable disclosures, for example Disy MP Averof Neophytou declaring only €854 in bank deposits.

Also not gone unnoticed was the slapdash manner in which many of the individuals concerned filled out the various fields.

Often, entries in fields were crossed out and replaced by barely legible handwriting.

Some of the politicians cited their immovable property at 1980 prices, others at 2013 prices, while others still provided a rough estimate. Some did not bother – or perhaps forgot – to fill in the relevant field altogether.

The ambiguities and inconsistencies in the data – despite the form being a standardized one – extended to shares in companies. Many of those who did declare such shares did not describe the companies in question or in some cases left out the value of those shares.

Some individuals failed to report the change in their income since the last time they submitted the statement. Others simply left the field blank, referring to their income tax statement.

President Nicos Anastasiades declared the value of his Audi A8 at €85,000 – apparently citing the price at which he bought the car back in 2012, without taking depreciation into account.

By comparison, Akel’s Andros Kyprianou, while not stating how much he paid for the same car model, cited its current value at €11,000.

On his own capital statement, Diko leader and MP Nicolas Papadopoulos cited earnings from the law firm, Tassos Papadopoulos & Associates LLC, for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Yet back in 2015, and responding to allegations that his law firm was implicated in the Paphos sewerage board scandal, Papadopoulos had publicly stated that he had left the firm as far back as 2011 and was no longer a partner or employee there.

A major shortcoming in the capital statements was the omission of the assets and income of spouses and children.

That is because in May of this year the Supreme Court ruled that disclosing data pertaining to spouses and children would be a violation of their privacy.

Nevertheless, politicians were still legally obligated to submit the data on their spouses and children, although this data would not be published.

But subsequently, the politicians were let off the hook altogether, when the attorney-general furnished a legal opinion, advising that the public officials did not need to cite their spouses’ assets this time round.

The obligation to report spouses’ assets and income has thus been deferred to the next time the statements are filed, which is the year 2019 for MPs and MEPs, and February 2018 for president Anastasiades and his ministers.

The capital statements are signed – meaning that anyone making false disclosures could be criminally liable.

But any such misstatements would first have to be first detected by the competent body, which would then have to decide to take action.

However, in this case the competent body is none other than a parliamentary committee –instead of an independent panel comprising auditors for example.

The committee in question is chaired by the House Speaker and its regular members include one MP each from the Disy, Akel, Diko and Edek parties – politicians policing themselves.

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