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Our View: Capital statement law is a massive joke

Photo: Christos Theodorides

THE more we learn about the capital statement law approved by the legislature the more apparent it becomes that this was the biggest practical joke ever pulled off by our deputies. This is a farcical law, provisions of which show complete disregard for legality as they stipulate no punishment for deputies that lie or submit incomplete information about their assets.

If a deputy is found to have submitted false information, he or she is not culpable for any wrongdoing, but would simply be expected to correct it. There is no reason for a deputy or politician to submit an honest and accurate capital statement. In other words, the people under scrutiny can sign a false capital statement with impunity, something, which undermines the idea that a person’s signature on a document is binding.

In the case of ministers and lawmakers, under this law, signatures are legally meaningless – not the best example to set in a society in which people often end up in court for failing to honour their signatures on contracts or other documents. The funny thing is that if these capital statements were submitted to the taxman and found to be false or incomplete, the signatory could face criminal charges.

Why are there different rules when deputies and ministers submit a capital statement, as part of the alleged drive to promote transparency? The reason is blatantly obvious – the law was designed to give a semblance of transparency, while allowing deputies to hide whichever assets they chose not to declare. A deputy could forget to include these in the capital statement or put them in the name of their spouse who does not submit a capital statement.

Meanwhile, according to the law, anyone that accused a deputy of having assets not included in the capital statement is liable to a hefty fine and prison sentence of up to a year, if the accusations were proved wrong. The thinking behind this, according to one deputy, was to discourage people from publicly discrediting a politician with false accusations – as if this was ever likely to happen. The real reason is that this would discourage people from reporting a deputy even if they had evidence.

What chance would any lone individual have of getting anywhere with such accusations, considering the deputies would be policing themselves. Allegations, the law stipulates would be investigated by a parliamentary committee, made up of a representative from each party and chaired by the House president. What is the likelihood this committee would objectively investigate any allegations? Less than zero, because there is always solidarity among politicians. This was made abundantly clear by the joke law they all worked in harmony to draft.

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