As if the Republic has not suffered enough embarrassment and as a result of the revelations of the citizenship by investment scheme, we now have a public row between two independent state officials over who should investigate the scheme. To be more precise, the auditor-general has been publicly casting doubts over the investigation being conducted by a four-member committee appointed by the attorney-general, acting on a decision taken by the council of ministers.
Odysseas Michaelides’ insistence on carrying out his own investigation suggests, in no uncertain terms, that he does not trust the committee appointed for this purpose by Giorgos Savvides and that he is the only official capable of conducting an honest probe. He might not have said this, but his actions speak for themselves and he is going out of his way to sell his investigation to the public as the better one, by releasing information about what he has found out so far in the form of a teaser, and to complain because the interior ministry is not handing over citizenship documents he had requested.
Savvides, understandably, has hit back. He called a news conference on Monday, accusing Michaelides of belittling the attorney-general, and showing no respect for him in his public comments. He had a point, because for as long as Michaelides’s friend, Costas Clerides, was attorney-general he showed complete deference to the ‘institution’ of the AG, often referring issues to him and awaiting his opinion. Now, the AG’s opinion has become an irrelevance, completely ignored by Michaelides, who has decided the institution does not merit his respect and its legal opinions were worthless.
In a new statement on Monday, Michaelides, defiantly declared the audit office was an independent institution that “was not under the guardianship of anyone.” Maybe so, but the way Michaelides has been behaving in the last few years, it is as if the all other institutions and state services are under the guardianship of the audit office and its autocratic boss, who does not recognise any constitutional limits to his own powers. He regularly abuses his powers and interferes everywhere on the spurious grounds that everything he does is for the public good and therefore justified.
He has been getting away with this bullying behaviour because everyone appears to be afraid of him; nobody dares to stand up to him or challenge his excesses, making him believe he is untouchable. And Savvides is making the same mistake as everyone else in trying to appease Michaelides by giving assurances that he would not allow any cover-up.
What he should do is report Michaelides to the Supreme Court for interfering in a police investigation ordered by the attorney-general, demanding documents relating to the investigation and releasing information while the investigation is in progress. The Supreme Court should decide whether the auditor-general has the constitutional power to carry out a parallel investigation and not the public or the political parties that Michaelides cleverly panders to.