Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades says a final report on the island’s disgraced golden passport scheme has alleged no deceit on his part, with the commander in chief apologizing for mistakes made under his administration which he attributed to lack of regulations and oversight over the years.
Speaking during the swearing-in ceremony of new Cabinet and Communications appointments, the President took stock of the achievements of his administration in the past eight years, while also drawing an outline for future goals.
He also acknowledged policy areas where there have been shortcomings, while also addressing the issue of the Cyprus Investment Program.
Lack of regulations and scheming individuals
“Unfortunately, and I admit it, there has been no due diligence on the part of the government to address gaps, flaws, and loopholes,” the president said.
Anastasiades noted that his administration took over the program that had been adopted by previous administrations, starting with the late President Tassos Papadopoulos’ administration and continuing throughout the administration of late President Demetris Christofias.
“Since its adoption in 2007, due to a lack of legal framework and necessary audit oversight, [the program] had been abused by scheming individuals,” the President said.
Anastasiades went on to say that he and members of his Cabinet were targeted by slanderous attacks, during a time of undignified claims and personal attacks that “exceeded the boundaries of civil discourse.”
“And so I do not hesitate, in a frank manner, to apologize and tell people sorry for our mistakes, which became grounds for causing an unprecedented political wrangle,” the president said.
'This is why I want, once again, to apologize for all things that played out in the media and caused feelings of distrust amongst citizens'
Anastasiades also stated that there were no findings in a special report that determined or assigned motives towards corruption or motives for committing fraud on the part of the president or members of his administration, despite what he described as efforts to prove the opposite.
“I will say it again. I am not trying to make excuses for any blame attributed to others in the report findings. This is why I want, once again, to apologize for all things that played out in the media and caused feelings of distrust amongst citizens,” the president said.
Anastasiades also made references to Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides, saying both men supported the position that an interim report by an appointed investigative committee was “extensive, well structured and documented.”
The investigative committee assigned by Attorney General George Savvides has published two reports on the issue, an interim before parliament elections and a final one last month.
In the final report, the four-member committee which included the deputy auditor general laid blame on the audit office for failing to check the program sooner, a claim Michaelides has disputed in a long written response.
Michaelides, an outspoken critic of the administration’s handling of the passport probe, has also expressed concern over the committee composition after it emerged that another member had admitted that the deputy auditor had been obsessed with his boss, with the auditor general going as far as to say that there were unauthorized methods of obtaining information within the department to make him look bad.
But Anastasiades said he was in complete agreement with the final report, saying the findings laid blame on current or previous administrations, the House of Representatives, civil service administrators, and providers.
“I wish to confess to you all that everything that unfolded because of the investor program has been the most painful period for me in all my 40 year presence in political goings on of the country,” the president said.
Anastasiades insisted that mistakes were made in good faith, pointing to immediate specific measures and the government’s termination to prosecute those who may have committed criminal or disciplinary offences.