NICOSIA – With Cyprus taking another embarrassing hit over its reputation as a money haven, President Nikos Christodoulides said his government won’t allow it, speaking after revelations Russian oligarchs were avoiding European Union sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.
“No one is above the reputation of the country” he said in pledging to have his administration scrutinize allegations in a report by international investigative journalists – called Cyprus Confidential – about rich Russians hiding cash there.
“Everything that has seen the light of day will be investigated and within a deadline,” he told reporters after publication of the report that took eight months to investigate, said the British newspaper The Guardian, which took part in it.
“We should be done with this matter. The reputation of our country, the credibility of our country … is of crucial importance in the effort of all the Cypriot people, so that we have a strong and resilient economy,” he said.
It was only by having a strong economy that the government could push ahead with a “targeted social policy” that allowed it to invest in health, education and other sectors, he said, the paper reported.
He was speaking about the charges in the report that was based on examination of some 3.6 million documents leaked from financial service providers on the island who weren’t identified.
It also led the Cypriot police to say they would probe how one of the rich Russians tried to transfer a $1.25 billion stake in a public company the same day he was put under EU sanctions, sources not named told the paper.
Government spokesperson, Konstantinos Letymbiotis, insisted there would be “zero tolerance” for violating sanctions, money laundering and other unlawful practices that have long dogged the island.
The report came as Cyprus was already reeling from American and British sanctions imposed on business entities and individuals for enabling the oligarchs to hide their fortunes, which the government had said wasn’t happening.