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EU Corruption Panel Will Review Cyprus High Court for Conflicts of Interest

January 22, 2019

NICOSIA – The Council of Europe anti-corruption body GRECO said it will send a team to Cyprus to review whether Supreme Court justices had conflicts of interest in ruling on cases where relatives, some of the lawyers, were involved.

GRECO, the acronym for the Group of States against Corruption, offered its assistance to the government over a case that threatens to send the justice system into turmoil after attorney Nicos Clerides, brother of Attorney-General Costas Clerides claimed, and later provided details, alleging the courts were controlled by the Polyviou and Chrysafinis law firm,

The Cypriot unit of GRECO said in a statement that officials from the parent group will be visiting be visiting Cyprus in the next few weeks to offer guidance on the issue, the Chinese news agency Xinhua said in a report.

“As part of Cyprus’ outstanding compliance report regarding its fourth evaluation round, which is related to the judiciary, a team of senior GRECO officers will visit Cyprus to provide additional guidance,” said the statement.

Attorney General Clerides, who backed up allegations of corruption of top judges, said GRECO requested information. GRECO comprises 49 European states and the United States, and is an anti-corruption watchdog monitoring members compliance with Council of Europe standards against wrongdoing but can only make recommendations.

AG 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.

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

She said they had told a general meeting of shareholders in 2012 the bank needed only a couple of thousands of euros to recapitalize. The next year, newly-elected President Nicos Anastasiades sought a 10-billion euro ($11.36 billion) to keep the banks and economy from collapsing and authorized the confiscation of 47.5 percent of accounts over 100,000 euros ($113,590), nearly wiping out the life savings of many.

That came as the Bank of Cyprus really needed 4.5 billion euros ($5.11 billion) to bring its Tier 1 capital ratio to European Union level standards.

Anastasiades reneged on promises to hold accountable the bank officials who had big holdings in Greek bonds that were devalued by 74 percent and for bad loans to Greek businesses who didn’t pay them back.

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 the courts were being manipulated to benefit relatives and families in the judiciary system and lawyers and that it wasn’t impartial.

The Attorney General also accused three other judges of taking part in a separate trial in which Bank of Cyprus and some of its former high officials were cleared of charges of market manipulation and falsification of accounts despite knowing children of two judges and the spouse of the third were employed by the law office representing the accused.

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