The second meeting of the Audit Committee, with the report of the Auditor General of the Republic on the Cyprus Investment Programme being the only item on the agenda, confirmed that the Golden Passports will be at the forefront of the opposition's election campaign. In an inkling of what's to come, AKEL seems to be leading the way in keeping corruption issues at the center of the opposition's discourse during this election season.
In fact, the leftist party took the whole issue a step further by putting the issue of party contributions on the public agenda. An issue that is expected to flare up next month when the Auditor General will make public the findings of his investigations into party contributions. Currently, the parliamentary work of the Audit Committee took a different turn when AKEL MP Christos Christofides took the floor, who, citing open sources, brought into the debate contributions given by KEP (Cyprus Investment Program) applicants to DISY. An action that, by common consent of those present, does not move outside the legislative framework, but raises questions of an ethical nature.
Christofides presented data on 353 naturalization filed by law firms belonging to current and former members of the Cabinet or their first-degree relatives...(which is) a blatant conflict of interest
The 5 'Synergy' applicants
Christos Christofides presented five cases of foreign applicants who participated in the Cyprus Investment Program and who, as it turns out, contributed a total of 205 thousand euros to the DISY's in the form of a contribution. Four of the five cases of contributions presented by the AKEL MP appear to have been made after their naturalization as Cypriot citizens. This is not illegal since the law allows Cypriot citizens to contribute up to 50 thousand euros to political parties. Mr. Christofides also presented a fifth case where the contribution appears to have been made before the date of the applicant's naturalization. A claim rejected by the Coalition.
Christos Christofides, both inside and outside the Audit Committee, raised the issue of complications from the contributions to DISY after the naturalizations, calling on the Auditor General to confirm whether there were irregularities in the procedures for approving these naturalizations. "Very serious questions on regulatory issues are being raised," the AKEL MP said after the session.
Cabinet in the frame
The second element that reinforces the electoral flavor given through the Auditor General's report concerns the government. Christofides presented data, again from open sources, on 353 naturalization applications filed by law firms "belonging to current and former members of the Cabinet or their first-degree relatives". In these cases, the AKEL MP referred to a "blatant conflict of interest". Mr. Christofides asked the Transparency Commissioner to rule on this "blatant conflict of interest since the member of the government's decisions conferred financial benefits on themselves or their relatives".
DISY: No harm done
Christos Christofides was answered by Savia Orfanidou, who focused on the disclosure of the contributions received by Synergy, which is the letter of the relevant law. She called for full transparency and based on the harmonized laws of Greco. "This is the second time the opposition has tried to hit the DISY using the same information, and like the first time, the attempt will fall flat."
In the Commission
Aside from the contributions to the Coalition and allegations of conflict of interest by government officials, the debate in the Audit Committee focused on the reduced VAT for the purchase of a primary residence. A characterization by the Director General of the Ministry of Finance that Odysseus Michaelides' point about a loss of revenue of €2024 million was "misleading and unsubstantiated" provoked a reaction from the Auditor General who in a strong tone said "we will inform the European Commission because there is a matter of blatant violation of European legislation".
[This article was translated from its Greek original]