Corruption weakens the economy although a lot is being done in Cyprus to work against it, the US state department’s global anti-corruption coordinator said on a recent trip to the island.

It also undermines opportunities and capabilities for businesses engaged in legitimate activities, in addition to public services while it kills international investment, said Richard Nephew told the Cyprus News Agency.

He was appointed in July 2022 by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and as such visits various countries around the world, and was recently in Cyprus for an exchange of views with the Cypriot authorities.

“I believe we have a good and strong cooperation, a good relationship and I think there are many things in international affairs that we can build on,” Nephew said, adding that all countries face challenges in the fight against corruption.

“And we can see how we will work together to try to address them,” he added.

“I know that (the issue is) a high priority of the President of the Republic and we are certainly learning that a lot of work is being done on this and new institutions are under development,” he added.

What we’re trying to do is build international institutions and the rules and good practices that each country should follow so that “we can find the bad guys, find the loopholes they exploit and close them.

“Corruption,” he reiterated, “weakens the economy, undermines opportunities for people trying to engage in legitimate activities, undermines public services, and kills international investment.”

He said international companies did not want to invest in countries where they had concerns about corruption.


Richard Nephew in Cyprus recently

Asked what he would suggest to the Cypriot authorities to improve the anti-corruption framework and implementation of sanctions, Nephew highlighted two issues: exchange of information and communication between the relevant departments, services and the private sector, as well as knowledge of the weaknesses of the system.

“The first thing is to make sure that all the separate agencies, all the government departments, know about the implementation of sanctions and especially the private sector,” he said.

The second, he continued, is to have a clear picture of what the weaknesses are, “especially because there will always be ill-intentioned people who will try to exploit loopholes and cracks in the system.”

He also highlighted the need to improve digitalisation and eGovernment tools.

Sanctions in which Cypriot companies have recently been caught up in, he said, should not be treated as a punishment, but as a tool for mitigating the risk to a financial system.

“As far as the international financial system is concerned, sanctions, in my opinion, and I believe also in the opinion of many compliance experts, should be seen as something positive, since they aim to protect financial systems,” he said.