AS WE said a couple of days ago, the government made a big mess of its handling of the OCCRP (Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) report regarding the allegations about links the Nicos Anastasiades and Associates Law Office’s links with the Troika Laundromat. By going on the defensive, constantly responding to Akel’s attacks, which were a repetition of the same charge – the president had failed to safeguard Cyprus’ reputation – it kept the issue alive for much longer than it merited.
All it had to do instead, was issue a denial of the allegations and quote the report which said, very clearly, that it had no “specific evidence that the law firm and its employees broke any laws or committed any crimes.” Matter closed. And then the government should have called on the unit for financial crime Mokas to carry out an investigation of possible links of companies to the Troika Laundromat. It eventually did so a few days ago. Now, we will have to wait for the Mokas investigation to shed light on the matter.
There could be other firms involved. Reports about links to the Troika Laundromat companies were received by the Cyprus authorities about a year ago, but instead of the state legal services passing on the information to Mokas to carry out an investigation referred the matter to the Cyprus Bar Association. This was a strange decision as the Bar Association had neither the experience nor the expertise to conduct an investigation into the movement of funds between shell companies etc. Yet it was handed over piles of box-files from a law firm that was not the president’s and these have been gathering dust for months.
Mokas’ independence and ability to conduct the investigation was challenged before it had even started its work, with demands for a “truly independent investigation that would be internationally trusted.” But is a unit under the authority of the attorney-general not independent and trustworthy? What is the point of having such a unit if it is not permitted to investigate issues in its remit? The least we can do is wait for the outcome of the investigation before we judge Mokas’ independence and integrity.
Meanwhile, the government was given another boost on Friday by the United States’ House Financial Services Committee, which was on a visit to Cyprus to discuss the combating of illicit financial activity. The head of the committee, Congresswoman Maxine Waters said discussions with the authorities “leave us confident that Cyprus is up to the challenge.” This is an answer to the government’s critics, who should hold their fire until the release of the Mokas report.