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Cyprus

Attorney-general denies overspending on expert advice

Attorney-general Costas Clerides is due to retire soon. There is speculation that former justice minister Ionas Nicolaou will replace him

Attorney-General Costas Clerides on Friday rubbished claims that his office spent millions on experts to investigate the collapse of the economy, saying the accusations were simply aimed at discrediting the institution.

In a written statement, Clerides made special reference to reports by TVone on Thursday and Politis on a regular basis, as well as others, claiming his office spent some €40 million on expert assistance during the investigation of the collapse.

The attorney-general has been accused of spending the money without achieving any results, while the auditor-general has been challenged to probe the payments.

The statement said that the attorney-general’s office had only spent €5.6m on expert help from November 2013 until May 2018. It added that an additional €22.9m was been spent on paying international arbitration bodies and foreign legal experts to defend the country’s rights against claims.

Clerides added that people should not expect a favourable result just because a lot of money had been spent on a probe.

The investigations only bear fruit when criminal offences can be proven, the statement said.

“Money spent towards this objective goes through transparent procedures, to provide police with the necessary know-how,” the statement said.

One of the claims in international arbitration was filed by Greek investment group Marfin (MIG) for €824m over the winding down of Laiki Bank.

MIG lost its stake in the bank after it was shut down under the terms of a €10 billion bailout deal for Cyprus, which was agreed with international lenders in March 2013.

The Greek group’s investment in Laiki had already been diluted when the bank was nationalised in mid-2012 after its capital base was hit by a write-down in Greek government debt, to which it was heavily exposed.

Another 20 legal entities and individuals joined the action, seeking an additional €229m.

The attorney-general said if Cyprus won the case it would be able to claim the expenses now paid towards it defence.

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