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22 May, 2024
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Experts to take charge of high-profile corruption cases

British inspectors to prioritize complaints related to gold passports and conflicts of interest

Ioanna Kyriakou

The Anti-Corruption Authority has initiated investigations and assessments of the complaints it has received. This follows the recent announcement, made public on Thursday (22/06), where the names of the British inspectors appointed to investigate specific cases were disclosed. The revelation of Cypriots' reluctance to investigate allegations involving officials has garnered significant attention. Consequently, the Authority has reached out to organizations and entities abroad, both public and private, in search of individuals with expertise in corruption matters.

Mr. Pogiatzis, the Transparency Commissioner and President of the Independent Anti-Corruption Authority assured "K" that an investigation into the book "State Mafia" by Makarios Drushiotis will be launched, despite doubts expressed by some. However, he clarified that the investigation would not begin next month due to the substantial work involved. It is crucial to determine whether the Authority possesses the necessary jurisdiction to proceed with the investigation.

When asked about the specific cases the foreign experts will handle, Mr. Pogiatzis refrained from providing explicit details. He explained that the reason for not announcing the complaints under investigation is to prevent the targeting of specific individuals, as new complaints may arise. Nevertheless, the statement emphasized that appointing Inspectorate Officers from Cyprus remains a priority "in all cases where there are no objective difficulties." However, according to reliable sources, the British experts will focus on grouping the complaints related to gold passports, as highlighted by Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides. This includes the allegations raised by AKEL MP Christos Christofides concerning a conflict of interest between the Cabinet and Nicos Anastasiades regarding the approval of gold passports. Furthermore, the foreign experts will investigate complaints lodged by Auditor General Odysseus Michaelides against Deputy Prosecutor General Savvas Angelides. These complaints involve the black van and the handling of the Legal Service, as well as the suspected abuse of power regarding the suspension of criminal prosecutions under the Common Criminal Code.

Regarding the reluctance of Cypriots to investigate allegations against officials, Mr. Pogiatzis stated that it stems from Cyprus being a small society where individuals are acquainted with each other.

As for the number of complaints before the Anti-Corruption Authority, it stands at approximately 91. These include complaints against Nicos Anastasiades and the Cyprus Investment Programme, as well as funding of political parties. Additionally, there are complaints against the Legal Service, numerous individual complaints, and anonymous complaints concerning the detention and extradition conditions of Kenan Ayaz, along with Andreas Papacharalambous' statements on corruption in football.

Regarding the timetable for the investigations assigned to the British officials, Mr. Pogiatzis estimated that the entire process would take a few weeks. The officials will travel back and forth between England and Cyprus to carry out their work, as they will not be permanently based in Cyprus. The conclusions will be drawn up in England upon completion of the testimonies. If the findings indicate suspicions of criminal offenses, the cases will be referred to the Attorney General. Otherwise, they will be announced and closed.

The selection criteria for inspection officers, as outlined by the Anti-Corruption Authority, emphasize their experience and competence in investigating corruption cases. Additionally, they should have no connection to corruption cases under investigation in Cyprus or with individuals involved in the claims. More than 90 individuals have applied so far, and the Authority has identified two individuals: George Campanellas and Tanveer Qureshi.

George Campanellas is a Partner at Taylor Rose MW Solicitors based in London. Although his family hails from the occupied village of Patriki in the Famagusta district, he was born and raised in England. He visits Cyprus for vacations and seminars. Mr. Campanellas represents individuals and organizations facing investigations and indictments by institutions such as the Serious Fraud Office (S.F.O.), Crown Prosecution Service-Serious Economic Organised Crime and International Directorate (SEOCID), His Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC), Trading Standards, and the National Crime Agency. He specializes in complex and serious cases involving fraud, money laundering, bribery, and corruption. He has also successfully conducted intricate cross-border investigations within the European Union and other jurisdictions.

Tanveer Qureshi is a Barrister and Fellow at 4-5 Gray's Inn Square in London. He has extensive experience appearing before all levels of the English Courts and leading a team of specialist lawyers in fraud and bribery cases. He has handled cases involving allegations of financial mismanagement and has shown interest in matters related to the commercial and banking sectors. Mr. Qureshi has also defended election fraud cases and has been a speaker at seminars focusing on election fraud and bribery issues. He made his first visit to Cyprus in April 2023 at the invitation of the Authority.

In the two cases already assigned to them, the team of Inspection Officers is completed by Cypriot Lawyer George Liasidis. George Liasidis graduated in Law from an English university and qualified as a Solicitor in England and Wales. Since 1994, he has been practicing as a solicitor in Cyprus, dealing with various cases. He is a Managing Partner in the Law Firm, George, Liasidis DEP. Mr. Liasidis is a registered Mediator in Civil and Commercial Matters, a licensed Insolvency Practitioner, and a member of the Dispute Resolution Committee (Out of Court) of the Cyprus Bar Association.

For the sake of transparency, it is essential to mention that the Law Firm where Mr. Liasidis is the Managing Director has handled a total of five investor naturalization cases under the Cyprus Investment Programme (CIP). However, none of these cases are mentioned in the CIP Reports.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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