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Cyprus' Incestuous Courts, Greeks Fixing Trials

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FILE PHOTO: EUROKINISSI/ΤΑΤΙΑΝΑ BOLARI.

The only justice in the halls of justice, as persecuted comic genius Lenny Bruce, who was tortured mercilessly by anti-Semitic and narrow-minded police and prosecutors for spouting profanities that were properly aimed at the too reverent, once said, is in the halls.

In Cyprus and Greece, too many times, there's injustice in the court. In Cyprus, it's because of an incestuous relationship and conflicts of interest between judges and lawyers who are related through families and law firms with a direct pipeline to the bench.

That being less possible in Greece, a cartel of criminal cronies including lawyers, judges and others in the judiciary, or tied to it, got together and decided the best way to get the results they wanted – being found not guilty – was the simple procedure corrupt police in the United States and elsewhere employ that's called “buying the case.”

That means paying off people to look the other way and bring verdicts in their fiduciary interest but not in the interest of justice.

There’s preciously too little of that commodity in a world where Greek politicians sent to jail for embezzlement get out a couple of years later after complaining they have a headache and walk away on grounds of poor health, only be later spotted eating lobster spaghetti in a high-end restaurant with the taxpayer's money they stole.

Attorney General Costas Clerides suggested that in two such cases the judges didn’t recuse themselves even though their family members worked at the law firm representing senior Bank of Cyprus officials, bringing up an open secret that will now be buried because corruption is in the best interest of the corrupt, who rule, as everybody knows.

Of course the Supreme Court judges were outraged to hear that conflicts of interest were going on as they winked and nodded and pretended otherwise, getting all high and mighty and saying they were “particularly sensitive” about the bench’s makeup but you can’t throw a stick without hitting a relative in Cyprus, kind of like in Iceland where there’s only a few hundred families.

Clerides said Supreme Court President Myron Nicolatos cast the deciding vote to clear a Bank of Cyprus former CEO charges of market manipulation despite knowing the bank gave the judge’s son and daughter an out-of-court settlement to pay them the value of bonds that had been written off during an economic crisis brought on by the banks, an arrangement the bank refused other depositors. Now why can’t we get deals like that?

Demetra Kalogirou, President of the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission, told state radio it investigated the charges and found the bank and its officials deliberately manipulated the market before the court said it hadn’t and that falsifying data was done to protect shareholders.

Nicos Clerides, the AG’s brother claimed, and provided details, alleging courts were controlled by the Polyviou and Chrysafinis law firm, which, if true, would put Cyprus on a par with the likes of Romania which is trying to legalize some forms of bribery.

These shenanigans have gotten the attention of the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body GRECO, which doesn’t have the power to investigate but said Cyprus’ government should prevent judiciary conflicts.

Marin Mrcela, Chairman of GRECO met with the judges of the High Court and the Judges’ Union and told reporters, “The body expects to see progress and Cyprus complying with its recommendations,” although it can’t do anything if there isn’t.

The high court chief, Myron Nicolatos, said he wouldn’t quit and claimed the arrangement by the bank to protect his relatives while others were devastated by the confiscations was legal.

Parliament President Demetris Syllouris asked the Ethics Committee to investigate the claims of AG Clerides and his brother that courts were being manipulated to benefit relatives and families in the judiciary system and lawyers and that it wasn’t impartial.

But Cyprus is still the minor leagues of corruption and they don’t play hardball there like they do in Greece where they skip over cozy conflicts of interest and get right down to paying off judges and lawyers and others in the legal system the same way Greek soccer fixes matches by paying off players and referees so openly the 1919 Chicago Black Sox really were the White Sox by comparison.

Five people convicted in a massive trial-fixing ring to control verdicts in Greek courts avoided jail, receiving only suspended sentences of 5-13 years for active and passive bribery and money-laundering, 14 years after the case was brought.

During their investigation, prosecutors implicated dozens of judges, lawyers, notaries, accountants and businessmen, who allegedly asked for bribes to secure a favorable judicial ruling or confiscated illegally various properties of high value.

The case was opened in 2010 after a Greek businessman, Yiannis Boletsis, told judicial authorities he was asked by a mediator in the ring, to pay a bribe to influence judges in his favor. Boletsis erupted and screamed at the judge, “You scumbag blackmailer, I will put you in jail!” Such is the nature of alleged law in Greece.

Bruce was right, of course, because dealing and double dealing goes on all the time in legal systems, including in the US which prides itself on being clean, unlike Greece where they think only suckers aren’t corrupt and don’t steal. But at least Greece has the best justice money can buy.