I suspect that you are aware of the mega scandal that has recently erupted within the European Parliament and has led to the removal of Eva Kaili as vice-president. Eva Kaili is a Greek politician belonging to Pasok, who has been serving as a MEP, since 2014. She denies any wrongdoing.
I am clearly against the setting up of popular television courts by invariably incompetent journalists, whose main concern is how to enhance the popularity of their show. Everyone is innocent until found guilty by a legally constituted court.
However, in contrast to other European countries (as Belgium has recently practically confirmed), in Cyprus the investigative and judicial authorities are literally moving at a snail’s pace, with the consequence that the crimes committed often “fade” by the time the accused are tried and, then, they are often acquitted due to the inability of the prosecution to prove the charges or as a result of a miscarriage of justice.
A classic example of such a case was acquitting the then CEO of the Bank of Cyprus of market manipulation charges in relation to the bank’s shares, when at the bank’s AGM, he made – knowingly and intentionally – misleading statements aimed at reassuring shareholders that there was no cause for concern. As the dissenting judge, Mrs Psara-Miltiadou, rightly pointed out that in her opinion, “I believe that the position that the statement was made to allay the concerns of the shareholders, strengthens, rather than it negates, the allegation of market manipulation. It was an intentional misrepresentation, made under the circumstances explained, that it amounted to a ‘reassurance’ intended to manipulate the market, by presenting unreal and false facts, as being true and real.”
The truth is that information that on numerous occasions has come to the fore leaves little room for doubt that corruption is widespread among politically exposed persons, many of whom do not hesitate to use their position for their own enrichment. Indeed, they turn these revenue streams into income that is entirely free from all forms of taxation.
What is truly striking is the insistence of many politically exposed persons to proclaim their so-called determination to stamp out corruption and collusion, while at the same time they undermine all efforts towards implementing an effective tool for combating corruption, such as a properly functioning “pothen esches” (where have the funds come from?).
A recent example of such behaviour was MP Irene Charalambidou. A couple of months ago, in one of the many unsuccessful attempts to “patch up” the malfunctioning legislation of “pothen esches”, she argued that works of art and jewellery should be excluded from the declared wealth of the politically exposed persons, thus prescribing a perfect way of rendering the tool useless. I confess that I was not present at the debate of the proposed amendments to the law in the House ethics committee, given that the meeting was held ‘behind closed doors’. I made the relevant information public in my article of October 30, 2022, but there was no comment on the part of Charalambidou, other than the abandoning the attempt to “patch up” the legislation.
I am of the professional opinion, which I have made public many times in the past, that identifying and punishing corruption and collusion, a posteriori, is a particularly difficult, if not an impossible task, particularly when these crimes are committed by members of the ruling class. In my opinion, the only way to deal with the problem is through adequate preventive controls, i.e., with the certainty that sooner or later the crime will be detected, no matter how many years have passed, and will be ruthlessly punished by confiscating the illegal proceeds and by forcing the perpetrators to pay punitive fines. This is preferrable to sending them to prison, a course of action that increases the cost of corruption borne by society.
However, because corruption appears to be widespread among politically exposed persons, instead of the members of the ruling classes proclaiming their innocence, it would be immensely helpful if they could withdraw from active political service, allowing those truly innocent politicians to look after the public interest and to seek at last the reunification of our homeland.
It is true that all presidential candidates, without exception, have publicly declared their commitment to adopt the proposal of Pissarides-Panayiotides-Syrimis on “pothen esches”, as soon as they are elected. Hopefully, they will honour their commitment.
However, since corruption appear to be spreading beyond the shores of Cyprus, it may make sense for the European Union to adopt the aforementioned proposal to cover all the politically exposed persons active within the union. The absurd argument that such an action would constitute a violation of the right of the politically exposed persons to have their personal data protected must at long last be set aside.
I remember the day I set foot in England for further education towards the end of the summer of 1963, when the two London evening newspapers (the Evening News and the Evening Standard) carried headlines on the “Profumo affair”. John Profumo was the UK’s secretary of defence who was having a sexual affair with Christine Keeler, a model who herself had a parallel sexual relationship with Yevgeny Ivanov, a naval attaché of the Russian embassy in London. This incident discredited the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan, who in October 1963 resigned his position as UK’s prime minister. At the time, no one claimed that the scandal should have been suppressed to protect the personal data of the country’s defence minister or of Russia’s naval attaché or of Mrs Keeler.
In contrast, when a subordinate of Nikos Christodoulides accused him of asking him to setup fake accounts on social media for the purposes of spreading false or misleading news, the presidential candidate replied that he would not comment on the allegation because it concerns personal data.
No Sir, politically exposed persons cannot hide behind the personal data shield. Whoever does not like the resulting exposure should withdraw from the political scene, because the relationship of a politician with the voters must be one of credibility, honesty and trustworthiness.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia