PRESIDENT Anastasiades has been shaken by the report about his law office by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). It refuses to go away, two weeks after it was published. This is in large part because Anastasiades thought he could make the matter go away with a confrontational approach, which proved to be a big miscalculation. Not only did this fail to frighten off anyone, but it also sparked an ongoing exchange with his detractors and the OCCRP.
The president may have thought the matter was closed after he issued a statement dismissing the report as “libellous” and “not corresponding to reality”. He was backed on the same day by a terse statement issued by his former law office threatening libel suits against any local medium that reproduced the claims made in the OCCRP report. This heavy-handed approach had the opposite of the desired effect. The OCCRP countered that everything it said in its report could be substantiated and subsequently released documents to back its story.
On the domestic front, Akel took up the matter, constantly asking the president what he was doing to protect the country’s reputation which had been tarnished by the report. The party did not endorse the claims of the report but made out it was concerned about Cyprus’ image abroad. It was a legitimate concern that also had the objective of raising questions about Anastasiades’ business dealings before he became president. The exchanges between Akel and the government, which felt obliged to respond to everything the opposition party said, became a daily phenomenon.
In the latest twist, the anti-money laundering authority Mokas announced that on August 19 it had asked for all the necessary documents from the Nicos Anastastasiades and Associates law office to carry out an investigation. The law office requested some time to collect all the documents Mokas had asked for and also demanded that the investigation’s findings be made public. Why did Mokas, which very rarely undertakes investigations on its own initiative, decide to investigate, especially as the OCCRP report stressed it had no “specific evidence that the law firm and its employees broke any laws or committed any crimes”?
It is entirely possible Anastasiades feels his denials, despite their constant repetition, have not convinced the public and that a seemingly independent third party like Mokas could give them more credibility. This assumes Mokas grants the request of the law office to make the findings of its investigation public.