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Our View: Series of failed prosecutions reflects badly on AG’s office

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

ANOTHER prosecution case brought by the attorney-general’s office collapsed this week, with the criminal court ruling there was no prima facie evidence for a trial, and acquitting all four defendants in connection with the irregular granting of loans valued at €12 million by the Ayia Fyla co-op. It was another embarrassment for the AG’s office and the police, the investigation of which was deemed deficient by the court, which found that the questioning of the suspects was conducted incorrectly.

The hearing lasted two years, 76 witnesses were called while the defendants faced 115 charges relating to the granting of 11 loans amounting to €12 million. Yet police investigators and the lawyers at the AG’s office who were guiding them were unable to provide adequate evidence for a trial. The court said in its decision that there was no evidence of intent to deceive given by the prosecution. On the contrary, the granting of the loans to people that would never receive them was known to the committee that took the loan decisions so there was no case of deception the court said.

Were the prosecutors not aware of this? The overall impression of the layman outsider is that neither the police investigators nor the lawyers from the AG’s office that were guiding them are very good at their job. The number of cases brought in relation to the banking collapse of 2013 that have been unsuccessful is growing, and the AG’s office must take the largest share of the responsibility. A few months ago the court threw out the case against two Bank of Cyprus executives, after an argument against having a trial by one defence lawyer, which the prosecution agreed with instead of challenging. The AG subsequently appealed.

All these failed prosecution cases do not reflect well on the quality of the lawyers at the AG’s office nor on the AG himself, who must give directions on how cases should be conducted. AG Costas Clerides, after the outcry that greeted the report on the collapse of the Co-op Bank, announced, earlier this month that his office had written to the chief of police asking for a criminal investigation into specific issues highlighted in the report because criminal offences may have been committed.

Criminal offences were most probably committed, but whether the lawyers at the AG’s office would be capable of conducting a successful prosecution in the courts is another matter, considering its abjectly poor results.

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