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AG denies squandering millions in 2013 economic crisis probes

Former attorney-general Costas Clerides

Attorney-general Costas Clerides on Wednesday rejected reports that he had spent millions of euros on probes into the collapse of the economy but had little to show for it, and urged certain media outlets to stop their “irresponsible and misleading” reporting.

The island’s top lawyer also suggested that a lot of people were looking forward to his retirement, due at some point in 2019.

Reports have suggested that the Legal Services had spent between €30m and €40m in investigating various financial crimes linked with the collapse of the economy but has little to show for it.

The truth was very different, Clerides said, saying his office had spent €5.6m between 2013 and 2018 to assist police in their investigations.

Around €22m had been spent on consultants but that had nothing to do with the investigations and were services purchased by the state to defend against claims before arbitration courts.

The expenses are debited to the Legal Services but were shared equally with the Central Bank, the attorney-general said.

Clerides said the Legal Service and the Central Bank together with foreign consultants had succeeded in having two claims rejected and have since been reimbursed €8m.

What is reported “is nothing but a misrepresentation”, he said. “It is high time some people stopped the irresponsible and misleading reporting” and start publishing the real numbers.

In July, the International Court of Arbitration dismissed claims for compensation totalling almost €1.1bn filed by former Laiki Bank strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos who died in 2016, Greece’s MIG Group, and 19 other investors.

The owners of FBME Bank Ltd, which was shuttered by the Central Bank in 2015 for violating anti money laundering and terrorism financing legislation, also resorted to international arbitration demanding €1.5bn.

That case has finished and a decision is expected at any moment, the AG said.

Asked about his date of retirement, Clerides said he has requested from the finance ministry to inform him of the exact date since he also had a lot of accumulated leave days.

“I am sure many people will be happy about that date,” he said.

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