ATTORNEY-GENERAL Costas Clerides might not have come under any criticism at home for his handling of the Bill Browder case, but he has embarrassed Cyprus abroad with the way he has handled the matter, his office having fully aligned itself with the office of Russia’s Director of Public Prosecutions. The state legal service is currently embroiled in legal battle with Browder, who is trying to prevent the Cyprus authorities from co-operating with Russia in an investigation against him.
Last year, the ministry of justice granted a request by Russia’s public prosecutor to send investigators to Cyprus to look into alleged offences by Browder. The investigators were told to return to Moscow after legal action prevented them from carrying out any investigations, with Browder’s lawyers arguing that this was a politically motivated probe. No other European country agreed to co-operate with Moscow on the case, on the justified grounds that Browder was being politically persecuted. The British American financier campaigned against the cover-up of the theft of $230 million by Russian officials, a case exposed by lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison, where he was put by the people he had exposed.
Rather than inform Russia that our authorities would not cooperate, as all other member states of the Council of Europe had done, Cyprus chose to assist Browder’s persecution. Four years ago, the Council of Europe asked its members not to co-operate with Russia in its politically-motivated probe against Browder and asked them to pass a similar law to the United States’ Magnitsky Act which stipulates punitive measures against those involved in Magnitsky’s death. Interestingly, two of the main suspects, Dmitry Klyuev and Andrei Pavlov visit Cyprus, have assets here and have transferred some of their stolen millions through the island. Needless to say, they have never been troubled by the Cyprus authorities.
The embarrassment for the Cyprus authorities refuses to disappear. Last month Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes wrote to Clerides asking him what progress had been made in investigating and prosecuting Klyuev and Pavlov. Had arrest warrants been issued, and had company directors, nominees and facilitators linked to the two men, been questioned? Clerides answered none of these questions, passing the buck to the ministry of justice, which was in charge of the police, “the investigation authority regarding all criminal offences.” Does this mean the attorney-general would never ask the police to investigate a suspected crime that has come to his attention? Is it the exclusive responsibility of the ministry of justice and the police to decide when to investigate a case?
What is sad is that with his response he is doing nothing to dispel the view created by the leaking of senior state attorney Eleni Loizidou’s emails, which revealed an embarrassing subservience to the office of the Russian public prosecutor.