Cyprus Mail

Hasikos, the politician ‘who never subscribed to populism’

Socratis Hasikos in parliament with then finance minister Harris Georgiades in 2016. The two men would later clash over the passport scheme

Former minister Socratis Hasikos, who died on Monday at the age of 64, was a straightshooter and staunch supporter of the island’s reunification.

Respected by friend and foe alike, Hasikos was prepared to listen to opposing views but also quarrel, even publicly, when he thought it was necessary.

Hasikos was born in Kato Dikomo in the district of Kyrenia, on April 12, 1956. He studied law in Athens and went into politics from an early age while also becoming a businessman.

He was elected MP for the first time in 1991 at the age of 35 and was re-elected in 1996.

In 1999, president Glafkos Clerides appointed Hasikos defence minister during his second administration.

He remained at the ministry until 2003 when Clerides lost the election. Three years later, Hasikos was re-elected in parliament, a position he did not contest at the end of the term in 2011.

Retired rear admiral Costas Fytiris, who served a head of staff at the defence ministry at the time, said Hasikos was quick to grasp the issues but was distinguished by being direct and frank, something “rare for a politician”. It was during his time that the decision to build a naval base was made.

Hasikos worked closely with National Guard commander, the late Evangelos Florakis, at the time to reform and upgrade the force.

His term at the ministry was marked by Florakis’ death in a helicopter crash in July 2002. The commander of the air force and three other officers were also killed.

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Michalis Papapetrou, who was government spokesman in the second Clerides administration, said he and Hasikos went into politics with opposing ideologies but they had a common objective, the island’s reunification.

“Looking at Socratis Hasikos I knew I would find strong support,” he said. Hasikos always spoke his mind irrespective of who he could offend, he added.

“He never subscribed to populism.”

Hasikos returned to the executive as interior minister following the election of President Nicos Anastasiades in 2013, who was a close friend.

“It is with great sorrow that I was informed of the death of Socratis Hasikos, a good friend, who was one of my closest associates,” the president said. “Socratis Hasikos served the country with love and dedication, giving a lot as a gentleman, through the various offices he held.”

It was difficult time for Cyprus, whose economy collapsed a couple of months after the election and the government was forced to borrow money from the EU and the IMF.

It was also a time when several scandals emerged, with the Paphos sewerage board and the rubbish management cases topping the list. There was also the case of the CyTA pension fund, all taking place while the country was reeling after the collapse.

Hasikos was not one to avoid clashing with anyone, including state officials. He rowed with the auditor-general over the rubbish management policy and most recently the island’s controversial citizenship by investment programme.

He was blamed for giving a passport to Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman and international fugitive sought by the authorities in Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States in connection with being the mastermind of the massive fraud, which prosecutors allege was a scheme to siphon US$4.5 billion from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund into his own accounts.

Hasikos accused the Bank of Cyprus, which handled the transaction, of turning the blind eye.

“The day after the passport was issued, the Bank of Cyprus discovered that the money was ‘dirty’. Days before they were ‘legal’. What can one assume?” Hasikos said.

He said until the day that he resigned, in May 2015, the anti-money laundering unit’s report did not justify rescinding the citizenship.

Hasikos did not even shy away from rebuking former finance minister Harris Georgiades on social media in January over the latter’s testimony before an inquiry.

In an abrasive tone, Hasikos told Georgiades on Twitter to stop passing the buck and blaming him for everything.

“Do not forget that when the state was broke and at the brink of bankruptcy and a bailout, the only revenue came from citizenships. I assume my share of responsibility.”

Before resigning in 2017, Hasikos sought to push through the much-needed local administration reforms but failed, mainly due to resistance from the opposition.

Hasikos eventually resigned in 2017 after three previous attempts, as he said, but Anastasiades had managed to convince him to stay.

He said he wanted to be close to his family, his wife Elli had been battling cancer for nine months when he stepped down.

During that time Hasikos was diagnosed with lung cancer. Elli died in 2019. While Hasikos continued to battle his own cancer, he remained ready to clash in public if he thought it necessary.

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