The Green Party on Tuesday said its worst fears about the anti-corruption authority had come true, piggybacking on media reports that one of the authority’s members has a questionable past including allegations of conflict of interest.
“It is worth wondering how the anti-corruption authority can function properly and carry out its task in a meritocratic way, when the impartiality and moral standing of its own members are under question,” the party said.
The Greens were alluding to an extensive reportage carried by daily Phileleftheros focusing on one of the members of the newly-established anti-corruption authority – Makis Constantinides, former permanent secretary at the transport ministry and former board chairman at the now-defunct Cyprus Airways.
The authority’s five members – including Costantinides – were named by President Anastasiades last week.
The authority is the go-to body for reporting suspected corruption in the broader public sector. Its work will be guided by the standards set by Greco – the EU’s anti-corruption watchdog.
Phileleftheros said question marks still hover over Constantinides’ public life – particularly his stint at Cyprus Airways.
On November 12, 2014, while chairman of state-run Cyprus Airways, he decided unilaterally that the company pay out €600,000 to Hermes Airports – operators of the airports – in a financial dispute involving the two parties.
However, just six days earlier during a session of the company’s board, a decision was taken not to make any payments to Hermes and let the matter be resolved in the courts. The paper said minutes of that meeting show that Constantinides had agreed with the rest of the board members.
It was an astonishing reversal by Constantinides in a period of six days, the paper noted, hinting at possible corruption.
It went on to recall that, prior to joining Cyprus Airways, Constantinides had served as a consultant to Woolworth Properties. The company was part of the CTC Group, which held an 11 per cent stock in Hermes Airports Ltd.
CTC also held a 20 per cent stake in CTC-ARI Airports Ltd – the company which in 2006 signed a 25-year deal with Hermes for exclusive management and operation of the commercial activities at Larnaca and Paphos airports.
The connection between Woolworth Properties and Hermes was therefore unmistakable, the paper said, suggesting a conflict of interest for Constantinides in his role as chairman at Cyprus Airways.
Contacted by Phileleftheros for a comment, Constantinides dismissed the allegations as “nonsense.”
His stint at Woolworth Properties, he said, had nothing to do with the operations of Hermes. His work at Woolworth Properties involved advising on real estate purchases.
Asked about his U-turn concerning the €600,000 payout to Hermes, Constantinides explained that “a great deal changed in those six days.”
It was during this timeframe, he explained, that he learned Hermes intended to obtain a restraining order on a Cyprus Airways airplane. If that happened, it would effectively spell the end of the debt-ridden airline, which at the time was struggling to find a restructuring solution to remain a going concern.
Constantinides resigned from Cyprus Airways in November 2014.
On why he took the decision to make the €600,000 payment to Hermes without consulting the other board members, Constantinides said:
“In such boards, sometimes circumstances dictate that you take decisions straight away. They had told me that Hermes was about to seize a plane. There was simply no time.”