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Our View: Browder case reveals Cyprus’ subservience to Russia

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou’s willingness to re-examine the punishments stipulated by law was a concession to the clubs

THE CYPRUS Republic received a public censure from the government of the Russian Federation on Tuesday for not satisfying a dubious legal request.

In a threatening statement, Russia’s foreign ministry reprimanded the Cyprus state, for blocking entry to a team of Russians that were to carry out investigations on the island, and questioned a court decision. Russia questioned the explanation of the Cypriot authorities that they had stopped the team of investigators entering because of legal action taken by William Browder, a financier and activist, in the Cyprus courts.

The statement said: “We have serious doubts regarding the legality of this decision, which was publicised before the court issued a decision on Mr Browder’s action, and as to whether the decision was taken independently.”

Displaying its contempt for rule of law, the foreign ministry added: “Such actions by our Cypriot partners are at odds with the level and nature of our bilateral and interstate relations, which are characterised by a high level of trust and mutual support, as illustrated by intensive political contacts at all levels, especially at the highest.”

The most embarrassing aspect of this story was the Cyprus government’s contrite response, smacking of servility, to this blatant interference by Russia in the course of justice. Justice minister Ionas Nicolaou, said that on receiving the request for legal assistance from the office of the Russian attorney-general the instructions were given to the police to do all the preparatory work, including arranging the arrival of investigators from Russia.

The execution of this request was suspended because of the pending court case – Browder’s lawyer had applied for the termination of the investigation on the grounds it was politically-motivated – said an apologetic Ionas in his statement.

He assured Moscow that on no account should this be considered as an end to the co-operation between the Cypriot and Russian authorities in this case as it would continue immediately after the court case. This is how our justice minister responds to another country’s blatant interference in our justice system.

The Russian government is conducting an investigation into the sale of Gazprom shares, 10 years ago, by Cypriot subsidiaries of Hermitage Capital that was controlled by Browder, whom the Russian authorities are pursuing for political reasons.

Two years ago, in an unprecedented move, Cypriot police accompanied by Russian investigators raided the Nicosia law office representing Browder. The financier had exposed the persecution by the Russian authorities of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison after being tortured and denied medical care, for exposing a $230 million tax fraud.

Interpol has repeatedly denied Russia’s request to investigate Browder, while the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe asked member-states, three years ago, to deny co-operation with Russia on this matter.

Cyprus is the only member-state that has opened its doors to Russia, once again illustrating its subservience to Moscow, a subservience the Putin government has come to take for granted, if his foreign ministry’s censorious statement is anything to go by.




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