Cyprus Mail
Letters

Polyviou’s Mari report was a damning indictment against the president

Former AG Petros Clerides

The article offers a good analysis and commentary on the legal and ethical protocols and the unseemly spat between Polyviou and the current AG. Here, I want to reveal something more about Mr Polyviou and, separately, about the former AG Petros Clerides.

First, Mr Polyviou. Readers may recall that he was appointed by President Christofias to lead the independent inquiry into the Mari-Vassilikos disaster that occurred on 11 July 2011. In my 2013 book Corporate Risk and Governance, I devoted a whole chapter to the disaster and included extensive reference to the 600-page Polyviou Report delivered in record time on 30 September 2011.

As such public inquiry reports go, and I have spent decades studying such reports and even contributing to some, it was a juggernaut. Not just a breath of fresh air but a hurricane of damning indictment against the President, named ministers and public officials, and even EAC officials. For example, “…..I deem that the actions, acts and decisions of the President do not correspond to the minimum diligence expected of him, whether it be with regard to the public interest, the economy of the country, but above all the safety of the citizens of the Republic”.

Further, on pages 593-594 of the Report, he stated: “The responsibility for the disappointing state of affairs…..is now understood by all as timeless and accumulated. The tragedy at the Mari Naval base reflects not only a colossal failure in this case but the failure of the political system in general. In this case, nothing worked…..Many public servants and the military showed sloppiness, avoiding responsibility and demonstrating self-evident cowardice against political leaders. There was a complete collapse of the system”.

Polyviou is clearly a man unafraid to speak his mind on matters before him and for that we should be grateful.

Now to the former AG Petros Clerides. Readers may recall that he was the AG who up to his resignation in 2013 decreed that scamming of property buyers (e.g. double-selling fraud) was NOT a criminal offence and could not be pursued by police – it was up to victims to pursue alleged perpetrators via a civil claim.

As I wrote at the time about the AG’s bizarre decision, “It is puzzling why property crime has been singled out for this special dispensation. Why not also for murder, rape, robbery or blackmail? Why are long-winded civil cases forced on property victims before a criminal investigation is allowed, even when strong prima facie evidence of a crime exists? A perverse parody of English law appears to be acted out”.

Moreover, Clerides also chaired the Cyprus Bar Association’s Disciplinary Board of Advocates, charged with examining complaints of misconduct including criminal misconduct against advocates. His double role appeared to be a clear case of conflict of interest: on the one hand, he has intervened as AG to stop police from investigating property fraud, while on the other hand as DBA chairman he is involved in determining whether an allegedly errant lawyer in a property fraud case is guilty or not!

Clerides appeared to think that conflict of interest rules did not apply to him. In 2013, he was forced to resign as AG following his intervention to suppress the prosecution of a family member accused of motoring offences.

Thus, while it should be a foregone conclusion that an AG always has ‘clean hands’, in Cyprus this may not always be true.

AW

The bishop of Morphou is a disgrace not the attorney-general


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