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Government hits back at oversight criticism

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The government on Wednesday hit back at criticism from the bar association and accountant’s association over the creation of a unified oversight authority, saying their outcry does not send the right message.

The bar association voiced strong opposition to the idea that client confidentiality may be breached, while the accountants charged they were not consulted over the matter.

On Tuesday, 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). It will also have the authority to impose fines and carry out investigations for sanctions violations.

Both the bar and Selk said they were not consulted.

Speaking to CyBC, head of the bar association Michalis Vorkas said they welcome the state’s effort to establish supervisory authorities and does not aim to obstruct the effort.

What is important to the association is the preservation of the rule of law, for which Cyprus is monitored daily by the European Union.”

Vorkas pointed out that no one can act in a way that violates the confidentiality of lawyer-client communication and asked for clarification on what the role of non-lawyers entering a law firm would be.

Selk head Kyriacos Iordanou said the organisation expected the government to consult them on the matter, before making an announcement for its creation.

“We are at the disposal of the government to address the vulnerabilities of the proposal, because we agree on upgrading the control of service providers.”

Attempting to deflect cristicism, deputy government spokesman Yiannis Antoniou told CyBC the cabinet decision on Tuesday was “so the framework for the authority could be established”.

He said that they would most certainly consult with the bar and Selk going forward.

He added that the oversight for services would not only be conducted by CySEC but also in cooperation with the lawyers and accountants.

Keravnos later said: “We should all seek the creation of the Unified Oversight Authority as it is the only way to clear the name of the country.

“When we talk about oversight and there are such strong reactions, in my view they do not leave a good taste [in the mouth],” Keravnos commented.

Keravnos said that all these bodies will be consulted.

“No one wants to interfere with either personal data or trade secrets,” he said, adding that supervision and audits will be carried out jointly by all the agencies involved.

Keravnos said he is “confident that through a calm and peaceful dialogue we will reach where we need to be and it will be in the interest of these professional bodies themselves and in the interest of the Republic of Cyprus.”

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

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