Letter from Athens: Anastasiades: The Man Who Wasn’t There for Cyprus

He came into office in 2013 with Cyprus’ banks teetering, the economy near collapse, promising to fix everything, to reunify the island and not to let banks confiscate people’s life savings.

He said he would hold accountable the bankers who put the country in peril by giving Greek businesses loans they didn’t pay back and having huge holdings in Greek bonds devalued 74 percent in a massive ‘haircut’ as Greece struggled to deal with debt.

He worsened the country’s reputation as a hideout for criminal cash and Russian influence, Cyprus the go-to place for money laundering and to buy citizenship if you were a rich foreign gangster in a residency permit scheme that was just a cover to bring money that’s never been accounted for.

And his government wouldn’t let the public know their names: that was left up to the media, which finally brought down the scam but left untouched his family’s law firm which facilitated rich foreigners getting European Union passports.

He did nothing, over and over and over and that’s what outgoing President Nicos ‘Mr. Sardonicus’ Anastasiades will be remembered for when he leaves office in February after 10 years.

You can’t blame him for not being able to reunify the island split by two unlawful Turkish invasions in 1974, even though he was willing to make concessions, because this problem is insoluble, even with divine intervention.

What you can blame him for is hiding behind his desk even as the residency permit scam he defended was unraveling before his eyes, and as he continued to defend it by saying other countries programs were just as bad (read, ‘corrupt’).

Cyprus’ next President won’t bring reunification either because Turkish-Cypriot hardline leader Ersin ‘The Acolyte’ Tatar takes orders from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and can’t talk because he’s licking his boss’ boots.

And while he prospered, Anastasiades made life miserable for a lot of people who lost a big chunk of their life savings when he allowed a state-sponsored bank robbery that saw them lose 47.5 percent of deposits over 100,000 euros ($109,088.)

That was done to get a 10-billion euro ($10.91 billion) international bailout to save the banks and the economy, but no banker was harmed in the making of that economic pornographic film.

Testifying to a committee of inquiry about the near collapse of the economy and banks he admitted he reneged on his promise not to allow the seizure of people’s money. That included Russian oligarchs and rich who didn’t much care because they could just refill it later, but it hurt small businesses.

He then complained that Cyprus was a guinea pig for harsh measures, but EU finance ministers rejected his counter-proposals – because who’s going to trust a backslider whose country is a money drop for criminals?

He said the bailout wasn’t his idea but was exposed when some members of the Eurogroup said it was, and the media properly used his head for a trampoline but it bounced back into shape.

Cypriot and British media reports said he alerted friends to move cash out of the country before capital controls were put in place, which he denied of course, and nothing ever came of that either.

His government refused to identify to whom it was selling residency permits and passports although it was public money. Where is it? Don’t ask him because he hasn’t said much of anything in 10 years worth anything.

It was left to the media, particularly an Al Jazeera sting that caught lawyers and politicians in a scandal, to reveal just how corrupt the residency program he defended really was, and he still hasn’t shown any regret over it.

Even for a politician he’s shallower than most, and just an empty suit without a smile or a sense of what’s right or wrong, happy to have his government of invertebrates take money from foreign criminals.

You couldn’t get a reaction out of this guy if you put a firecracker in his shoe or behind because he seems immune to criticism, and, like all politicians, believing only in himself and not the common good.

He didn’t even blink when the U.S. TV news magazine ‘60 Minutes’ gave Cyprus the Malta Mafia island treatment and said it was a hiding spot for the riches of Russian oligarchs who have powerful sway.

A former advisor, Makarios Drousiotis, alleged in a book that Anastasiades is under the thumb of Russian oligarchs and that his government used surveillance to help them profit.

Anastasiades sued, saying the claims were just “unsupported accusations” and expressed “total contempt to yellow journalism trash and malicious lies” – one of the rare times he said anything in 10 years.

Even though he recused himself from his family’s law firm’s dealings, the Organized Crime and Corruption Project (OCCRP) said that the legal business “executed complex deals that moved Russian money to and from shell companies created by and associated with the firm.”

He left it to others in his government to deliver weak arguments why he hadn’t turned Cyprus into a near Russian outpost, but the smell of dirty money, roubles washed into euros, isn’t going to be washed off.
When Cyprus was in the deep doo-doo as he came to power he said, “the state of emergency and critical nature of the times do not allow me … to embark on a blame game.” Especially him.


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