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Refusal to pay social insurance as act of civil disobedience appeal overturned

Michalis Paraskevas

The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of lawyer Michalis Paraskevas who was charged for refusing to pay social insurance contributions as a form of civil disobedience, citing the alleged ‘haircut’ of the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in effect robbing people of some €7.5bn on the instructions of the troika.

Paraskeva got himself in legal trouble with the government after refusing to pay social insurance contributions – some €663 – as someone who is self-employed. He considered his refusal an act of civil disobedience in response to what he claims is a plan by the government to write-off a €7.5bn debt to the SIF.

He was charged for failing to pay his contributions to the fund for the period between October 2012 and January 2013 and additional charges.

The Supreme Court dismissed Paraskevas’ appeal to his charges, arguing that civil disobedience could not stand in court as defence in a criminal case.

“In a rule of law, the invocation of the need to control those ruling, no matter how bona fide as it may be, cannot take the form of disobedience to the laws. This would not help improvement, but would lead to the collapse of the state. The welcome, if not necessary, participation and reaction of the citizen to the things that affect his life must be manifested within the framework of the laws,” the court ruling said.
The massive debt to the SIF is the result of years of governments borrowing from the fund to plug holes in public finances. The troika of lenders requested in 2012 for that debt to be written off, although the state has yet to do so.

Paraskevas believes the state will trigger the collapse of the SIF if it writes off the debt and that the banks and the state are to blame for the financial meltdown and considers taking money off the SIF as an attack on the people.

In 2015, Paraskevas urged Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides to force the finance and labour ministers to table a bill for better management of the social insurance fund and to take penal or other action against the two ministers “if they refuse to apply the law, as required”.

In the letter, Paraskeva said that Cypriot citizens are dragged to court according to the law on social insurance and at the same time a blind eye is turned for violations of other relevant law articles by “those who control the state and not by citizens”.

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