NICOSIA – Cyprus’ Supreme Court President Myron Nicolatos is under criticism after his daughter and sister appeared to have gained from out-of-court settlements favoring the Bank of Cyprus over suits about the conversion of their deposits to bonds.
Former Attorney-General Alecos Markides said he doesn’t think Nicolatos should not resign but that the judicial system needs an overhaul after Attorney-General Costas Clerides charged that in two cases Supreme Court judges didn’t recuse themselves even though relatives worked worked at the law firm representing senior Bank of Cyprus officials.
Costas Clerides weighed in after his brother, Nicos, said what he called familial relationships had brought favorable rulings, which court officials rejected without explaining why the judges weren’t in conflict of interest.
AG Clerides said this should lead to “corrective steps instead of sweeping things under the carpet,” with family ties said to play an influencing role in the island’s politics.
Nicolatos had adjudicated in an appeal filed by former Bank of Cyprus CEO Andreas Eliades who had been jailed for market manipulation.
In a 2-1 decision, the three-bench court found that the bank and Eliades made false representations about the financial status of the bank, but to “reassure” shareholders and not to manipulate the market to gain profits.
Nicos Clerides claimed, and later provided details, that the courts were controlled by the Polyviou and Chrysafinis law firm, the Cyprus Mail reported about the growing furor and apparent conflicts-of-interest in the judicial system where families are interconnected.
The firm, Chrysafinis and Polyviou (C&P) said the allegations were an attempt to tarnish the firm’s name and the name of the “remarkable lawyers” working for it who “happen to be related” with Supreme Court members, the Cyprus Mail reported.
“Nicos Clerides’ claims are unfounded, in bad faith, and ultimately, slanderous and fully unacceptable,” the C&P statement said, adding that his letter to the Bar Association was “full of inaccuracies (not specified) and innuendos and clearly promotes ulterior objectives”.
“We note that employment of judges’ relatives by law firms is commonplace, not only in Cyprus but also abroad, and our office is just one of the law firms employing relatives of the judiciary now and in the past,” the statement also had said.
“There is not a single Supreme Court judge who does not have a child at the law office that promotes the banks’ interests,” Nicos Clerides said of the firm, which represents Bank of Cyprus.
AG Clerides now tried to back that up, saying that in the Supreme Court’s final judgment in the market manipulation (insider information) case filed against the bank that, “three of the five judges on the appeals court have children or a spouse who are employed at the law firm representing the Bank and its officer in the appeals process.”
Citing court transcripts, Clerides said that at the beginning of the appeals process, which got underway on Jan. 11, 2018, none of the members of the supreme court volunteered this information regarding their connection to the defendants’ law firm.
Asked about the appearance in court of parents and offspring, Markides told Politis it was wrong to judge practices that have been going on for years by the perceptions of today. He cited the reports of an incidence where lawyer Christos Triandafyllides had appeared before his father Michalakis Triandafyllides, some dozens of times.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)