The Republic of Cyprus has come a long way in dealing with anti-corruption and Anti-money laundering (AML) issues, making important strides in restoring the Republic of Cyprus’ reputation, said US Ambassador to Cyprus, Judith Garber speaking on Tuesday at EY’s Cyprus Attractiveness Forum.
She added however that "doubts linger in many corners" and told the audience that "as businessmen, you understand once trust is broken, it’s difficult to restore".
investors from the United States, as elsewhere, look for predictable, stable environments, with assurances that agreements and contracts will be honored, and with efficient dispute resolution systems
Garber who was referring to the potential to attract further US investment in Cyprus, said that investors from the United States, as elsewhere, look for predictable, stable environments, with assurances that agreements and contracts will be honored, and with efficient dispute resolution systems – whether through the courts, mediation, or arbitration – when the sometimes unavoidable disagreement arises.
"It has long been a tenet of American economic diplomacy that our companies can compete with the best in any market if there is fair competition. And the most insidious factor in undermining fair competition is corruption", she noted.
She added that it was important that the Republic of Cyprus was taking steps to address the risks of corruption and that these steps would build the confidence of foreign investors. She also noted that the Republic of Cyprus has started offering public access to a registry of Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBOs) of companies registered in Cyprus and it will be accessible online soon. The registry, as she said promotes transparency – a key tool in the fight against corruption and is countering tax evasion, anti-money laundering as well as other forms of illicit crime. She also referred to another "milestone", the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Authority a few months ago.
"We are looking forward to the quick passage of its implementing regulations so it may begin identifying areas for further investigation and reform", she said.
Additionally, she stressed that in the context of attracting foreign investment, perhaps the most important change over the past few months was the passage of judicial reform bills in July, aimed at reducing the time it takes to resolve cases in civil court.
At the same time she noted that not all foreign investment was desirable, when national security concerns may arise depending on the origin of the investment, and/or the sector involved.
"The United States welcomed the decision of the Council of Ministers this past September to establish an Investment Screening mechanism, as recommended by the European Commission. We believe this step will strengthen the confidence of U.S. investors in Cyprus. And we look forward to sharing lessons learned from our experience with investment screening, as Cyprus launches its new mechanism", she said.
The Ambassador also noted the Republic of Cyprus’s strong, principled stance on sanctions compliance, along with the rest of the European Union. "This has sent and continues to send an important message against Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. These actions speak far louder than words as to the new course the Republic of Cyprus is on".
Garber pointed out that if economic security was national security "that makes all of us partners in these efforts". "American national security, Cypriot national security, and the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean region are all inseparably connected", she said.
She finally said that she was confident that the Republic of Cyprus is going in the right direction, as is the US – Republic of Cyprus bilateral relationship.