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Audit office vs police chief: new war of words

coffee1deity general odysseas
Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides

A new war of words among institutions has broken out, after the chief of police has refused to provide auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides with data concerning unpaid fines and permits to carry firearms.

Speaking to the media earlier this week, Michaelides said that he has asked President Nikos Christodoulides to personally intervene in the matter.

On the issue of unpaid fines – the majority of which concern violations of Covid rules – for which the attorney-general’s office has decided not to press charges, Michaelides said he had asked police chief Stelios Papatheodorou to provide details. Michaelides wanted to see why these cases were dropped – in other words, whereas court cases were filed for the unpaid fines, the attorney-general decided against going ahead with pressing charges.

The attorney-general has the discretion to do that.

According to Michaelides, the police chief wrote back telling him that “you don’t need this data.” To back up his position, Papatheodorou cited a legal opinion issued by the attorney-general apparently allowing him not to provide this information to the Audit Office.

Commenting on the police chief’s response, Michaelides marshaled two legal opinions issued by former attorneys-general Petros Clerides and Costas Clerides which said that “the person being audited cannot decide what data the auditor needs.”

Regarding the firearm permits issued to civilians, again the police chief has so far declined to provide the data requested by Michaelides. The auditor-general argued the constitution gives him the authority to ask for this information, given that in most cases the permits concern firearms that are the property of the state – and therefore subject to audit.

The auditor claimed the police chief was dragging his feet in providing this data.

He went on to describe the matter of the firearms as “very serious” as the Audit Office has “strong indications about a person who has been given two pistols, which under no circumstances should this person be allowed to have them.”

Daily Phileleftheros contacted the police force for a comment. On the firearm permits, they said that “all firearms belonging to the state are either held by the police or are consigned to persons legally possessing a permit to carry firearms, and to whom a consignment receipt is issued.”

The police said that because the issue of firearms is “sensitive” they sought a legal opinion from the attorney-general on whether they should disclose such information. Having recently received the AG’s legal opinion, they are currently studying it, and will then reply to Michaelides.

Back to the issue of the unpaid fines, the police said they had handed over data on all fines issued during the 2019-2021 period – fully complying with the auditor-general’s request. Then in June of this year the Audit Office came back with a new request, seeking additional details about the fate of the unpaid fines.

According to the police, the Audit Office is now asking for the names of the individuals or companies fined, as well as the names of the lawyers representing them, and the court case numbers.

“Because we were unsure as to whether we can provide such personal data, we asked the attorney-general’s office for a legal opinion. The response we got was that such data cannot be provided as they do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Audit Office.”

The president will now have to decide which institution to side with – the Audit Office or the attorney-general.

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