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28 November, 2021
 
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Cyprus frets ‘pandoramonium’ overshadowing good work

Ruling party accuses opposition of lumping everything together as some parties call on Anastasiades to resign

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The Cypriot finance ministry says a European Parliament resolution on Pandora Papers and subsequent criticism by local opposition is overshadowing the amount of good work that has been done on the island against illegal activities, as some parties are calling on the president to step down.

In a press release issued Friday the finance ministry said statements by political parties and references in local media following a resolution on the Pandora Papers “essentially diminish all the measures that have been taken in the last several years against income from illegal activities and terrorist financing as well as authorities tasked with keeping them in check.”

On Thursday, a name-and-shame resolution approved by the European Parliament pointed to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and other leaders mentioned in the Pandora Papers, with calls on member states to carry out thorough investigations of alleged wrongdoing as well as close loopholes on offshore dealings.

The ministry went on to list several measures taken between 2013 and 2015 aimed at strengthening legislation as well as more recent actions, such as cracking down on shell companies within the banking sector.

Earlier this year, Energy Minister Natasa Pilides called on business stakeholders in Cyprus to embrace a new effort of recording and updating true information about beneficiaries of companies, saying a new digital registry can bolster transparency on the island.

'They essentially diminish all measures taken in the last several years against income from illegal activities and terrorist financing as well as authorities tasked with keeping them in check'

Experts say the register, a requirement of European Union anti-money laundering regulations, could be a game changer for Cyprus, in an effort to shed its old ways where secrecy was seen as a magnet for those concealing wealth and hiding assets.

But Cypriot government officials seem to have got the message regarding brass plate companies lured by competitive tax rates.

Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides, known in local media as a silent critic of the country’s disgraced golden passport scheme, has already made references to a new plan aimed at creating naturalization eligibility categories for skilled foreigners working at high-tech companies in Cyprus.

Petrides has been pushing for new incentives to attract foreign companies to Cyprus, citing plans to cut down on labor restrictions, offer attractive tax packages, and fast track family dependants of employees.

The ministry went on to say that in February 2019, in an effort to mitigate risks in the banking industry, the Central Bank of Cyprus had issued guidance banning business relationships between financial institutions and shell companies that have no presence or activity in the country, with exceptions only for low-risk firms.

“The current system in the Republic of Cyprus against income from illegal activities and terrorist financing has been repeatedly assessed positively by the MONEYVAL monitoring body of the Council of Europe,” the finance ministry said.

Some parties call on Anastasiades to resign

But political opposition is accusing Anastasiades of making a bad name for Cyprus despite recent efforts by the government.

Left parties AKEL and the Greens called on Anastasiades to resign, with the communist party referring to a “long list of conflicts of interest weighing on the president over the years” while the environmentalists accused the government of playing down the issue.

Anastasiades has been mentioned in multiple stories about foreign wealthy individuals accused of illegally obtaining a Cypriot golden passport, while reports of corruption allegations implicated his ex law firm in Limassol, Nicos Chr. Anastasiades & Partners.

The firm also appears in the Pandora Papers as having been accused of filing false information to Alcogal, a Panamanian offshore company broker that reported to authorities a suspicion that this had been done to hide assets of a controversial Russian billionaire.

The Cypriot president, who says he left the firm before he ever became president, has denied any wrongdoing in statements he made immediately following the revelations.

But center opposition party DIKO criticized Anastasiades for failing to act proactively in the interests of the country.

“The resolution includes specific reference to President Anastasiades because the family Law Office bearing the name ‘Nicos Anastasiades’ is included in these revealing documents concerning professional misconduct,” DIKO-hailing MEP Costas Mavrides said.

Other smaller parties nationalist ELAM and socialist EDEK called for an investigation.

Ruling party sees political exploitation

But ruling conservative party DISY fired back at the opposition, saying the Anastasiades’ critics were jumping the gun “at a time when even the authors of the document did not implicate the President of the Republic in such cases, something also emphasized in a statement by the European People's Party.”

“Not only are we against every political attempt from the opposition that lumps everything together to hurt the president but this also goes against the European Parliament’s decision both in spirit and letter of the presumption of a particular fact included in the resolution,” a DISY statement said.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  Pandora Papers  |  Anastasiades  |  economy  |  Petrides  |  reform  |  shell companies  |  EU  |  resolution  |  money laundering  |  banks

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