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Our View: Co-op inquiry makes unwelcome return to news as its head resigns other posts

Yiorgos Aresti who headed the inquiry into the collapse of the co-op

Just when the government thought the uproar about its critical stance on the findings of the investigation into the collapse of the co-op bank had died down the matter was back in the news over the last few days. The resignation from two state bodies by the investigative committee’s chairman, retired Supreme Court judge, Giorgos Aresti who felt offended by the government’s open questioning of the committee’s findings, made the matter news again.

Although he had cited a heavy workload for his resignations, Aresti admitted on Tuesday he was upset by the way the president and the finance minister publicly disparaged the work of the investigative committee and its findings. Aresti resigned as chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of the Public Supervision Authority of the Auditing Profession, a position to which he had been appointed in 2017 by the Council of Ministers.

His reasoning was that if the government did not trust the work he had done in the co-op investigation, openly questioning the validity of its findings, how could it trust him to be in charge of the Public Supervision Authority? Showing the type of political sensitivity politicians seem incapable of displaying, Aresti decided that the honourable thing to do was to step down as chairman of the Authority as he no longer enjoyed the trust of the president and finance minister. He had earlier resigned as chairman of the Committee for the Exclusion of Financial Agencies (from public tenders).

For the opposition parties, Aresti’s resignation was a perfect excuse to put the co-op investigation and the government’s refusal to accept any of the responsibility attributed to it by the committee, back on the public agenda. They all contrasted the honourable way in which Aresti acted with the abrogation of responsibility by the finance minister and the barrage of government criticism against the three-member committee.

Akel’s parliamentary spokesman Giorgos Loucaides described Aresti’s resignation as an “act of self-respect,” given that President Anastasiades, the finance minister and the government “have shown brutal disregard both for the findings of the independent committee for the co-op bank and for the committee itself.” Other parties took a similar stand, having a dig at the government’s contempt for the committee.

Instead of avoiding responding, Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou went on the offensive on Tuesday slamming the investigative committee’s failure to include co-op accounts in its report, which he said was unheard of in an investigation into a collapse of a bank. This aggressiveness is not a very smart policy publicity-wise. Not only does it keep the public bickering alive but it also proves the point of the opposition that the government’s only concern was the discrediting of the co-op committee; it is also a reminder to everyone that the government refuses to accept any responsibility for the collapse of the co-op bank.

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