The government on Thursday sought to downplay the fact that President Nicos Anastasiades was explicitly named in a resolution adopted by the European Parliament, where MEPs call for thorough investigations into any wrongdoing exposed by the Pandora Papers taking place in EU jurisdictions.
The text of the resolution reads: “The Parliament deplores the fact that a number of politicians, including EU high-level decision-makers, have also featured in the Pandora Papers, and calls on the authorities of the member states involved to carry out appropriate investigations into any wrongdoing.”
It “deplores, in particular, the fact that politicians such as Andrej Babiš, the Prime Minister of Czechia, and Nicos Anastasiades, the President of Cyprus, who both sit on the European Council, in addition to Wopke Hoekstra, the Dutch Minister of Finance, and also Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Milo Dakahovic, the President of Montenegro, and former Maltese Minister and former EU Commissioner John Dalli, have all been mentioned in the Pandora Papers with reported links with offshore dealings.”
The resolution was adopted by 578 votes in favour, 28 against and 79 abstentions. MEPs identified what they see as the most urgent measures the EU needs to take to close loopholes that currently allow for tax avoidance, money laundering and tax evasion on a massive scale.
The resolution asks the European Commission – the EU’s executive body – to review the Pandora Papers revelations to analyse whether further legislation should be proposed and establish if legal action against some member states is warranted. MEPs said also the European Public Prosecutor should assess whether the revelations merit any specific investigations.
MEPs called the current EU blacklist of tax havens a “blunt instrument,” unable to catch some of the worst-offending countries. For example, the British Virgin Islands accounts for two thirds of the shell companies in the Pandora Papers and yet do not feature on the EU blacklist, the resolution remarked.
Back in Cyprus, main opposition Akel said Anastasiades’ inclusion in the European Parliament resolution constitutes an embarrassment for the entire country.
“Nicos Anastasiades has made history in turning Cyprus into a laughing stock throughout the world. This is not only a problem for Mr Anastasiades, but an indignity hanging over the country itself,” Akel said.
“It is ridicule beyond compare. Anywhere else, we would have resignations.”
Hitting back, the government through its spokesman accused Akel of resorting to sensationalism and cheap politicking. It said media reports clearly have not directly implicated the president in dodgy dealings.
Anastasiades himself has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing after the law firm he founded was accused of hiding the assets of a former Russian senator behind fake beneficial owners in a secret report filed with financial regulators in the British Virgin Islands.
“They [the Pandora Papers] say nothing, they are talking about the law firm bearing my name and nothing else,” Anastasiades told reporters on arriving at an EU Summit earlier this month.
The president said nothing in the papers indicated he was concealing wealth in the BVIs or setting up a company to transfer money out of Cyprus.
The House ethics committee is to begin discussions on the Pandora Papers next week.
The report naming the Anastasiades law firm in connection with the BVI was published by the Guardian, a media partner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists – the entity that secured the raw data comprising the Pandora Papers.
A US-based non-profit, the ICIJ lists among its supporters/donors the following: the Ford Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, and Luminate – a philanthropic organisation co-established by entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay.