Attorney-general Costas Clerides denied on Wednesday that he had ever disrespected the judiciary and its officers during a public spat earlier this year that eventually led to changes in the operation of the supreme court.
Clerides was responding to a motion filed by lawyer Chris Triantafillides at the supreme court asking it to compel the attorney-general to issue a statement restoring the prestige and credibility of the justice system and its officers.
The hearing was part of an appeal filed by the state against the acquittal of former Bank of Cyprus (BoC) CEO Andreas Eliades and his deputy Yiannis Kypri over the reclassification of the Greek bonds held by the lender in 2010.
Triantafyllides represents Eliades.
The spat broke out after Eliades was acquitted when Clerides’ brother Nicos claimed, and later provided details, that the courts were controlled by the Polyviou and Chrysafinis law firm, which represented BoC, among others.
“There is not a single supreme court judge who does not have a child at the law office that promotes the banks’ interests,” the attorney-general’s brother had said of the firm.
The attorney-general later said that in supreme court’s final judgement in a separate case of market manipulation case filed against BoC three of the five judges on the appeals court had children or a spouse employed at the law firm representing the bank in the appeals process.
Citing court transcripts, Clerides said that at the beginning of the appeals process, which got underway on January 11, 2018, none of the members of the supreme court volunteered this information regarding their connection to the defendants’ law firm.
On Wednesday, Clerides said Triantafyllides’ motion was unfounded. He said it was highly insulting and there was no need for anyone to ask him to reaffirm his confidence towards justice and its officers.
The AG said he had never offended the credibility of the judiciary and was only making certain observations concerning two particular appeals and objective impartiality. The spat resulted in the supreme court changing judicial practice.
“I do not feel any need to restore the prestige of justice because I have never offended it,” he told the three-member panel. “There is no point of referring the application to the supreme court plenum (full bench of 13 judges).”
The court rejected the motion and adjourned until April 8 to hear the appeal.
In February, Clerides had requested the recusal of supreme court President Myron Nicolatos, who was one of the three judges adjudicating the appeal.
The attorney-general argued that there were questions surrounding Nicolatos’ “objective impartiality”.
Nicolatos himself rejected any doubts over his impartiality, but recused himself regardless.
During the spat, allegations surfaced that Nicolatos’ daughter and sister had benefited from out-of-court settlements with BoC.
Nicolatos himself had also adjudicated in an appeal filed by Eliades who had been jailed for market manipulation, in a separate case to the ongoing one.
In a 2 to 1 decision, the three-bench court had found that the bank and Eliades, although they had made false representations about the financial status of the bank, did not do so with intent to manipulate the market but rather to ‘reassure’ shareholders.
The casting vote, which benefited the bank, belonged to Nicolatos – leading to talk of a quid pro quo between the judge and the lender, and the suggestion that Nicolatos ought to have recused himself from those hearings.