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Gov pledges ‘tough oversight’ on services sector after sanctions

Finance Minister Makis Keravnos

Cabinet on Tuesday greenlighted the creation of an oversight body for service-sector companies, Finance Minister Makis Keravnos said.

The body aims to prevent situations that “threaten the image” of the country and will be tasked with carrying out snap reviews in case there are indications suggesting practices with negative consequences to Cyprus’ reputation.

The oversight body will be headed by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) and will carry out the checks jointly with the Bar Association and the Accountants Association (Selk).

Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet decision, Keravnos underlined that if there are announcements for sanctions violation, then the body can investigate them.

There will also be pre-emptive inspections.

“If there are sanctions violations, there will be fines, reprimands and other measures, which will be determined by the oversight bodies carrying out the inspections.

“There needs to be legal regulation over this,” Keravnos said.

The minister described the decision as a cornerstone of a building block that will protect Cyprus’ name and improve the services, which will be offered under unitary, strict, oversight.

He added that within the framework, the qualifications of those offering the services will be determined, and a cap on the number of companies they serve will be decided.

But, Bar Association chairman Michalis Vorkas told the Cyprus Mail the association is opposed to the idea behind the authority which will require lawyers to share confidential data with other bodies.

We have concerns about breaking client confidentiality,” he underlined, and do not agree with sharing information with other authorities.

“The bar association is the only legal regulator for lawyers,” Vorkas added.

Should there be concerns about crimes such as sanctions evasions, then there will be a report to the police, as is the current practice, he said.

The matter will be tabled to parliament, and “we will formally present our positions there.”

Asked about the ongoing investigation since last year’s sanctions on companies and a lawyer, Vorkas said it was still ongoing as there was a large volume of data.

“We are not in a position to say when it will be completed but it will not be delayed. There is a lot of material.”

On Friday, the latest tranche of sanctions by the US, UK and Canada embroiled three Limassol-based companies and one dual citizenship national, with both a Cypriot and Russian passport.

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