Cyprus Mail
OpinionTales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Back stabbing already rife among prez’s dream team

All the president's men and women

EVERYONE knew it, but this week we received official confirmation that the Nicos Chr Anastasiades (NCA) law firm is one of the main providers of the citizenship-by-investment scheme. It was in a long list of providers of this lucrative service given to the legislature and included the big auditing firms and many law firms.

We know the prez has nothing to do with his law firm, apart from paying it the odd visit on a Sunday, but his name alone does give a competitive advantage to the family business. For instance a Russian oligarch or Saudi sheikh would be more inclined to seek the services of a firm belonging to the family of the prez.

To be fair, none of the NCA’s direct competitors have complained about the firm’s unique selling proposition – access to the head of state during family gatherings – which would suggest there is enough money for everyone to make a financial killing even without access to the prez.

Apparently some €4.8 billion has been generated by the scheme so far although it does not all go to the lawyers, accountants and politicians that take care of the applications. Most of it goes to the developers that sell overpriced properties to the investors and are now building mini-skyscrapers in Limassol to satisfy the investors’ demands.

Only in Kyproulla, where we take plenty liberties with language, would someone that buys a house be referred to as an investor. Then again, a citizenship-by-house-buying scheme would not sound as grand.

THE FIRST family does not only benefit from processing applications for citizenship. Prez Nik’s son-in-law offers ancillary services, such as finding properties for the law firm’s clients to invest in and taking a cut from sale price. He is known as an investment advisor rather than as an estate agent, which lacks glamour.

The business of the son-in-law, who often accompanies the prez on his trips to promote investment in Kyproulla, has been doing so well at one point he ran out of properties to sell and was calling around estate agents asking if they had expensive properties for sale.

Now, it is said, he will start developing his own properties so that investors could be offered the full range of services by the NCA law firm and the family benefits from the whole investment. The son-in-law is a smart businessman, who has exploited his dad-in-law’s state policy to the full.

This is a guarantee that the citizenship-by-house-buying scheme will continue until we run out of land to build on or the EU decides to stop it. There is no way Nik would stop it and deprive his family of such lucrative business on the ridiculous grounds that we are no longer in recession.

IT MAKES you wonder if this lucrative scheme was one of the many reasons that made the prez decide he did not want a Cyprob settlement.

In the event of a settlement, the issuing of passports would have been the responsibility of the federal government and the Turkish Cypriots would have wanted a piece of the action – there are developers and lawyers in the north as well. There would also be wealthy Turks wanting to get hold of an EU passport.

During the election campaign many of our customers wondered why none of Nik’s rivals brought up the issue of the citizenship scheme. They could have made a big fuss about the state policy from which a family law firm was making big bucks. The answer was provided by the list given to the legislature last week.

Another of the providers of the citizenship-by-investment scheme was the Tassos Papadopoulos and Co law office. And Akel, presumably, did not bring up the issue because it did not want to take the risk of Malas having an outside chance of winning.

Mr Dalai Lama holding court with other ministers

MEANWHILE, Nik’s dream team was sworn in Thursday with Paphos’ very own Dalai Lama looking especially pleased with himself on becoming foreign minister. Will he come out of the closet now that he will be in charge of the foreign ministry hawks or will he carry on pretending, like his boss, that he desperately wants a settlement?
I suspect he will leave the ministry’s hard-line policies to Mrs Dalai Lama, while he carries on posing as the moderate, compromising, softly-spoken dove. I hope that he is undermined in the same way that his predecessor, Ioannis Kasoulides, was.

At his farewell gathering with the diplomatic corps, Kasoulides was asked whose idea it was for the foreign ministry to send a letter to all embassies warning them not to support any events taking place at Bedesten in occupied Nicosia. Bedesten is an old Gothic church that was renovated with EU funding between 2004 and 2009 in order to be used for cultural events.

Towards the end of last year our foreign ministry sent its letter to all embassies telling them Bedesten was out of bounds because it had no permit from the Republic’s Antiquities Department, which was in charge of all antiquities.

Ambassadors could not believe the absurdity of letter, which was why they asked Kasoulides whose idea it was.
Kasoulides told them he did not know anything about the letter, which had nothing to do with him. He was just the foreign minister being made to look foolish by his subordinates.

THIS WAS not the first time the patriotic hawks of the foreign ministry took decisions behind Kasoulides’ back. Before the conference on Cyprus in Crans-Montana in order to improve the climate the foreign ministry introduced its measure of not allowing entry to tourists who were booked to stay at hotels or apartments in the north that belonged to Greek Cypriots.

Kasoulides knew nothing about this, which was the initiative of the Dalai Lama having received approval from the prez. The sneaky Paphite also excluded the ministry of interior, which has the responsibility for entry policies, from the meetings so that he could impose his patriotic plan with Mrs Dalai Lama who, unlike her hubby, is openly hard line.

At least now Mr and Mrs Dalai Lama will not have to go behind anyone’s back to implement their climate-poisoning policies because for five years they will be able to treat the foreign ministry as the family business.

THE EXCUSE Prez Nik gave to Harris Georgiades for not making him foreign minister was that Greece’s government disapproved of him for the post. He told him that the Greek government was unhappy with him because he had been critical of Yanis Varoufakis when he was dealing with the Eurogroup as finance minister.

He could not have come up with a more pathetic excuse. First, the Greek government was so unhappy with Varoufakis it forced him out; second, there is no way he would have consulted Greece about who to appoint (it is only the Turkish Cypriots who are told who to appoint by the mother country). Perhaps our surrogate mother country did not approve of Harris, who is pro-Western and pro-EU.

The Dalai Lama, in contrast, being a devout Orthodox Christian with very friendly ties with Mother Russia’s embassy was the ideal choice as he could be relied to defend Orthodoxy’s interests in EU forums.

Attorney general Costas Clerides

THE INTIMIDATION of hacks by AG Costas Clerides in connection with the senior attorney Eleni Loizidou’s emails continued last week with another four being called in by the police for questioning – two from Politis and two from Sigmalive.

Here I would like to ask a question in the form of a complaint. Why have I not been called in for questioning by the police? This column has also referred to Loizidou’s emails but I have yet to receive a call and feel I have been rudely snubbed by our authorities, which is not a good feeling. Is it because I am not taken seriously?

THE CASE has caused a fallout between Clerides and the Chief of Police after the former publicly insulted the force in order to ingratiate himself with Phil. After Phil hacks were called in for questioning by the police, the paper carried a front page editorial complaining and arguing that its journalists had done nothing wrong – they had only reproduced the odd line from the Loizidou’s emails.

It was a fair point, as Phil had demanded the prosecution of those that published the emails, which exposed the slavish subservience of the AG’s office to Russia’s director of public prosecutions. Not wanting to alienate Phil, Clerides called one of its hacks and told him that the police had messed up and should never have questioned Phil hacks.

The AG’s claim of a police cock-up was reported by the paper, in a self-righteous article, which infuriated the police chief. The chief wrote to Clerides, informing him that from now on he had to write to the police telling them whom they should call in for questioning. This has raised my hopes as I could still get a call.

THE ZEAL and urgency with which the AG has tried to stop hacks writing about the embarrassing emails were not displayed in relation to the disciplinary investigation of his senior attorney. Loizidou was investigated for using an unsecure private email account for official business.

An investigator was appointed by the council of ministers but Clerides insisted that the report should be sent to him rather than the body that ordered the investigation. Once he received it, he sent it to a private lawyer to study it and give his recommendations because he could not become involved. Three months after the investigation was ordered nothing has been heard about it.

The delay cannot be blamed on a police cock-up.

TODAY we are inaugurating a new feature, titled ‘Tell-tale signs that Prez Nik would seek a third term’. Although he said this term would be his last and knowing that he never lies there were still signs that subconsciously he may have set his sights on the third term.

Last week he held a signing ceremony at the presidential palace for pay rises for all hospital workers that had not been given rises. Pay rises had been given to nurses and doctors but not the rest of the hospital workers. So the head of Pasydy and the outgoing health minister met at the presidential palace to sign the agreement on the pay rises.

The signing of a routine agreement could have taken place at the health ministry without any fanfare. That it was held at the palace, in the presence of Nik, was a tell-tale sign that he campaign for re-election may have already begun.

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