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Our View: Diko blackmail over passport probe is unconstitutional

Auditor general Odysseas Michaelides

In the quest for votes, parties sometimes forget we have a constitution and rule of law. Diko has been displaying this tendency – not for the first time – by insisting that auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides should be directly involved in the investigation into the citizenship by investment scheme. If the government failed to satisfy this demand, Diko warned, it would vote against the state budget for 2021, making its approval hang in the balance, as nobody could predict the votes of the small parties and the independents.

Diko in effect is trying to cash in on Michaelides’ popularity by adopting public calls, through social media, that he should be running the investigation into the granting of passports. It has aligned itself with Akel, which is also championing Michaelides as the only person capable of looking into the scheme. The auditor-general had tried to appoint himself chief investigator, demanding all the files were handed over to him by the interior ministry so he could start work, but the government refused to oblige.

On Tuesday the government spokesman issued a strongly worded announcement, accusing Diko of ‘blackmail’ and saying its threat “constitutes the ultimate violation of constitutional convention”. Kyriacos Kousios said Diko was attempting through blackmail to replace the attorney-general, who had already appointed an investigative committee, on instructions by the council of ministers. The investigative committee was headed by the recently retired president of the supreme court and one of its three other members was a senior official from the auditor-general’s office.

Diko had no legal or constitutional power to impose the investigator of its liking. As President Anastasiades said in an interview on Sigmalive on Tuesday night, the position of the attorney-general, as legal counsel of the state, would have been completely undermined if the responsibility of appointing investigative committees and criminal investigators was taken away from him or he was ordered to put Michaelides in charge of the investigation.

“The auditor-general has specific duties,” the president, correctly, pointed out, adding that the government and the attorney-general had acted within their constitutional powers.

He also rejected the idea that the auditor-general was the only objective, state official which was what Diko and Akel were implying by zealously insisting he should investigate. This row could have been avoided if Michaelides acted in a responsible manner, publicly stating that an investigative committee had already been appointed by the attorney-general and therefore there was no need for another investigation being carried out by him.

The problem is that he seems to condone Diko’s imprudent behaviour and share its view that he is the only person in Cyprus capable of carrying out an honest investigation into the citizenship scheme.

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