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Current law on PEP’s asset statements is ‘useless’, experts say

Cypriot Nobel Laureate Sir Christopher Pissarides was one of those who penned the study, described as a White Paper. Other experts included certified accountants Christos Panayiotides and Nicos Syrimis

Current legislation on asset statements filed by politically exposed persons (PEPs) should be completely replaced as it is useless, an expert study said, suggesting that a section of those tasked with cleaning up corruption sought perpetuation of the problem for their own reasons.

“The legislation at the moment is a ruin that cannot be restored or a rag that cannot be patched up,” according to the study.

The study, described as a White Paper, was penned pro bono by certified accountants Christos Panayiotides and Nicos Syrimis, Cypriot Nobel laureate Christoforos Pissarides, and a prominent legal expert who wanted to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue.

It has already been submitted to parliament, supreme court members , the president and his cabinet.

According to the study, corruption has spread its tentacles across all upper levels of society, including politicians. The need for change is pressing and immediate.

“However, resolving the problem is very difficult because among those tasked with correcting the situation, there are individuals who have reasons to seek perpetuation of the problem,” the study said.

Those people sought to muddy the waters, declaring their pledge to stamp out the problem and blaming it on others not themselves.

They focus attention on the past, but they ignore the future, “which should have been the first priority.”

They also undermine the credibility of the system, aiming at leading people to the conclusion that “they are all thieves” so it would be impossible to find and punish them.

A small minority of those in power also lack the political will to stamp out corruption using various excuses.

The study proposes an annual declaration of assets, covering the previous year, as well as a tax return, so that the two can be easily cross checked.

Any other arrangement would be condemning the effort to failure.

The asset declaration must include the PEP, their spouse, and their underage children.

In 2017, the supreme court decided that a separate declaration by spouses was unconstitutional because it was not necessary to ensure transparency in public life, nor was it a measure against corruption.

“The present legislative proposal overcomes this obstacle by publishing the information on a unified basis and by avoiding publication of individual personal data that are not necessary for the purpose of the asset statement,” the experts said.

The information should be accessible to the public.

The study proposes a multi-dimensional audit while penalties for inaccurate statements should be balanced – not too harsh but not too lenient either.

Emphasis should be placed on seizing the product of illegal enrichment, imposing fines, loss of office, taking away retirement benefits, and prohibiting reappointment.

The experts expect those benefiting from the current system to wage a unrelenting war against the changes because it would likely create serious personal problems and end their political career.

Opposition should also be expected from tax evaders.

For the full version of the White Paper click here

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