House President Demetris Syllouris on Thursday said the receipt of watches by five Cypriot MPs as gifts from Kuwaiti officials was a non-issue.
Syllouris was commenting on an article in Politis suggesting a major issue of ethics had arisen from the receipt of the expensive watches from the head of the Kuwaiti National Assembly during an official visit by a Cypriot delegation in April.
The paper said the MPs – Akel’s Irini Charalambidou, Diko’s Christiana Erotokritou, Edek’s Elias Myrianthous and Citizens Alliance’s Anna Theologou were part of the delegation to Kuwait. The men had received TAG Heuer brand watches and the women Swiss Charriol watches, while Syllouris was given a Rolex, all worth thousands, the paper said. None had declared the gifts.
Politis raised the issue of whether the watches should have been declared the property of the House because the MPs did not travel to Kuwait in a personal capacity.
It said however that on the return of the delegation to Cyprus on Wednesday, April 12, there was a debate between the parliamentary delegation as to whether the gifts should be handed over along with various other souvenirs they had received.
The paper said the view was taken that the watches were personal gifts. “In fact, one of the female deputies said she had more expensive watches than the one given to her as a gift in Kuwait,” it added.
Syllouris when asked on Thursday about the watches on Cybc, said it was a non-issue though he did not deny the members of the delegation had kept the watches. He wondered why that was a bigger issue than the actual work accomplished by the delegation in Kuwait.
One of the recipients, Anna Theologou said on Friday that gift exchanges on official visits were protocol. “We did not get them from a private individual that might allow some to speak of graft,” she said. The Cypriot delegation had also given gifts to the Kuwaitis, she said including mosaics and handicrafts. “If there is an issue here let them tell us where to declare these gifts. There are no regulations governing this.”
Politis said it had contacted Edek’s Elias Myrianthous who said he had reported it to the House and to his party’s leader Marinos Sizopoulos and asked if he should hand it over. He was told he did not have to, and also noted there were no rules governing the situation. He said two women House officials on the trip were also given watches but under civil service rules they had to declare them.
The issue of updating ethics rules for MPs has been pending for years, the paper said and that the latest GRECO report on transparency and corruption issued in July had mentioned the lack of such a code in order to avoid conflicts of interests.