Cyprus Mail
Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: MPs’ declarations of assets brighten up a slow August

Former interior minister Socratis Hasikos said the declarations were ludicrous and misleading

THIS is the worst time of the year for news and gossip. Everyone is on holiday so we have to feed off scraps. Even the Trito radio show, the island’s main source of political news and platform for idiotic views shut shop all last week, replacing its programmes with songs. They are much more uplifting first thing in the morning than the boring rants of Junior, PP and comrade Andros, but not very helpful for column-writing.

I suppose I could write that this weekend is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, but readers might think I am some kind of superannuated hippy, which I am not. Another option of course is our beloved Cyprob which pre-dates Woodstock and remains a source of inspiration for all of us, despite the fact that everything about it has already been said at least a million times before and there is no new angle.

This did not stop front-page headlines such as “Turkey waging war of nerves,” and “(UNSG) wants the setting to clear so he can measure the possibilities in the Kypriako (Cyprob)” on consecutive days in Phil. The Kathimerini website, meanwhile forecasted a “critical September for the Kypriako”, as the UNSG’s envoy Jane Holl Lute would be conducting a “breakneck tour of all the involved sides, to explore intentions, but also the possibility of speedy resumption of talks”.

But the winner of the week’s Cyprob cliché competition was not a news medium but the Famagusta municipal council which passed a resolution, stating “the Kypriako finds itself at the most critical arch of its history.” The same critical arch it was at two months ago and every month before that for the last 45 years.

 

AT LEAST we had the asset declarations submitted by our politicians 10 days ago to keep us amused. These are the biggest joke our politicians have ever played on us, reminding everyone that their only undisputable skill is fooling the mugs that vote for them.

They passed a mockery of a law, under pressure from the Council of Europe that was urging member states to take measures against corruption, which allows them to lie, mislead and misinform. They can write anything they like in their asset declarations, knowing that the information will be checked by nobody.

For appearances’ sake the legislature set up a committee for capital statements, made up of the president of the House and two deputies, that was supposed to carry out checks of the deputies’ declarations. The alleged self-regulation did not materialise because there was never any intention for the deputies to carry out checks on their colleagues. There is honour among thieves, but also among morally upstanding deputies, safeguarding transparency and exercising self-regulation.

 

EVEN though deputies made the law aimed at battling corruption through transparency totally ineffective they still could not resist showing their utter contempt for it.

When the new asset declarations were posted on the website for 2017, the ones submitted two years earlier for 2016 were taken down so people could not compare the two and establish if a politician had become richer in that time. That was the whole point of the joke law.

Not that any deputy, minister or president would provide data indicating that he/she became mega-rich since taking public office, but for appearances’ sake the earlier declaration should not have been removed. It would have made the myth of the fight against corruption slightly more believable.

Our deputies’ alleged commitment to transparency was, for want of a better word, rather transparent.

 

HATS OFF to Socratis Hasikos, former interior minister and Disy deputy, for being the only politician (even though he is no longer one) to have a go at this farce. He also submitted a realistic asset declaration for 2017 that put the value of his assets at €3 million, down from €3.38 million the previous year.

On his Facebook page, he posted the following about the law on the declarations: “It is at best ludicrous, hypocritical and misleading and justifiably provokes people, who, in turn mock all those that, according to the law submit their asset declaration. It is not possible to exclude spouses and offspring from this obligation. The message sent by those obliged to submit a declaration is ‘we can steal, but put it in the names of our wives and children’.”

When drafting the law, deputies ensured that spouses and offspring of politicians would be exempt from submitting a declaration. It would have been unconstitutional to include them, it was claimed at the time. Does the constitution actually safeguard the right “to steal but put in the name of our wives and children”?

 

PREZ NIK’S asset declaration made no attempt at honesty. His total personal assets were valued at about 213 grand, which is about as believable as his commitment to settling the Cyprob. He owned two flats in Limassol, which were listed at 1980s prices – 28 grand and 38 grand – prices at which you could not buy a garage in Limassol today.

They are probably worth five times as much now, but if he cannot be truthful about something so blatantly obvious what are the chances that the rest of his declaration is accurate? Before he became prez, his law office had some of the wealthiest Russian oligarchs as its clients. Had he not made a few millions from them, had he spent it all by the time he was elected, donated it to charity, given it to his daughters or is it in bank accounts in the name of his wife?

We shall never know because the law in Kyproulla protects the human right of politicians to hide their wealth.

 

THE ORGANISED Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) carried a long article about the Nicos Anastasiades Law Office and the services offered to two companies, behind which was Russian billionaire Alexander Abramov, for whom the law office reportedly secured Cypriot citizenship in 2010. It beggared belief that Prez Nik had a billionaire Russian as his client (and he was not the only one) and still failed to increase his personal wealth by at least a couple of million bucks despite money transfers, according to the OCCRP, in the region of €300 million.

The report pointed out very clearly that documents it had seen “do not contain any specific evidence that the firm or its employees broke any laws or committed any crimes.”

 

OF THE PARTIES, only Akel issued a statement about the OCCRP report while Tass News Agency, which usually reports everything written abroad about Kyproulla, did not mention it. On Saturday, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou, issued a typically self-righteous statement.

“The president has expressed his disappointment, because once again he is being targeted along with Cyprus with libellous statements, which do not correspond to reality,” Prodromou said. The president was disappointed that a Cypriot media outlet had printed the libellous report, and compounded the defamation of the country and the president, he added.

Prodromou also reminded everyone that citizenship was given to Abramov by the Akel government, the interior minister at the time, Neoklis Sylikiotis, saying “there are matters of public interest, which justify the citizenship.” He did not deny that Abramov was a client of Nik’s law office, but he did mention that the OCCRP’s claims had been investigated by the US agency FINCEN, which found nothing to implicate Nik’s law firm.

 

THE OCCRP was not the only website to carry stories about the Prez’s law office. Back in 2016 the Kremlin mouthpiece, Russia Insider, carried extensive reports about another mega-wealthy Russian client of the law office, Leonid Lebedev who had filed a $2 billion claim in a New York court against Bank of Cyprus shareholder Victor Vekselberg and another Russian businessman.

https://russia-insider.com/en/irish-arrest-warrant-cyprus-leaders-lebedev-case/ri15613

Russia Insider carried a lot of ultra-critical reports of our Nik when it looked like he was working for a settlement, but all these stopped after he morphed into a super-patriotic hardliner.

What really boggles the mind is how a lawyer with so many billionaire clients (another was the former BoC vice chairman Vladimir Strzhalkovsky) could only have a personal wealth amounting to 200 grand?

 

BISHOP of Morphou Neophytos has finally responded to the heavy attacks he came under for his absurd theories on how homosexuals were created. He was waiting for the fasting period to be over before he spoke. He issued a brief statement Saturday, in which he prayed for an end to the catastrophic fires and earthquakes before adding:
“As regards another fire, about the flesh, the Holy Spirit and evil spirits that some lit for us, we will not make any comment, fully respecting the relevant police investigation currently under way.” After the public uproar about Neophytos’ claims, the AG ordered a police investigation in connection with incitement to hatred.

Neophytos has nothing to fear because while the police investigation was under way, priests and the faithful of his diocese were carrying out all-night prayer sessions asking the Almighty to give strength to their Bishop to withstand the attacks and carry on preaching the truth.

 

 

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