The chair of the ad hoc committee that looked into allegations of wrongdoing last year as Cyprus’ golden passports scandal was unfolding defended the choice to go after high profile cases, following criticism from opposition parties that say the focus was too narrow.
A day after a redacted report with names blacked out was published in connection with Cyprus’ disgraced Citizenship by Investment Progreamme, following last year’s probe by a three-member ad hoc committee, Demetra Kalogerou who chaired the committee responded to critics who said the focus was too narrow.
Kalogerou, a former administrator of Cyprus Stock Exchange and current chairwoman for Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, was appointed by the Cabinet last year to get to the bottom of allegations of corruption linked to foreign investor passports.
Kalogerou: we worked on our spare time
The CSEC chairwoman said on state radio Wednesday morning that she worked on her spare time, along with two other members as well as two assistants, and looked into a number of high-risk passport applications amid bad publicity for the country through foreign media.
The ad-hoc committee chose to examine cases that were linked to allegations of corruption as reported in foreign media, Kalogerou said, defending her team’s decision over their case selection method.
'There are issues of low credibility here because hearings held by an independent investigation committee take place behind closed doors'
But critics pointed out that information about the cases examined by Kalogerou had already been known, with some politicians even pointing to details about possible alleged offences as they appeared in an exclusive report by Kathimerini Cyprus back in September.
Last week, President Nicos Anastasiades had announced the publication of the redacted report and promised all information to be made public as long as it would not influence any criminal proceedings.
But hours after Tuesday’s publication, DIKO President Nicholas Papadopoulos, a vocal critic of the government whose party also defeated the budget citing lack of transparency, pointed out that the Kalogerou probe failed to look into cases that were linked to Anastasiades’ former law firm or companies linked to current and former members of the Cabinet or their relatives.
AKEL: administration trusts only committees
On Wednesday morning, AKEL MP Stefanos Stefanou slammed the government over the publication of the Kalogerou report, saying the information was important but not adequate and accused the administration of trusting “nobody else except committees.”
“There are issues of low credibility here because hearings held by an independent investigation committee take place behind closed doors,” Stefanou said, referring to a different and ongoing probe appointed by the attorney general’s office.
Earlier this year, Attorney General George Savvides who served on the Cabinet last year as justice minster before becoming the state’s chief law enforcer, raised eyebrows amongst opposition parties after he advised the administration not to hand over passport files to Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides.
DIKO: probes designed to keep auditor at bay
DIKO MP Christiana Erotokritou, who also spoke on the news talk show, pointed out that the appointment of committees in general ends up taking a lot of time “until people can forget” the issue, adding that there was no basis to block the auditor general from probing cases.
“A procedure is currently taking place to bypass the audit office from probing the issue, I don’t think anyone can say otherwise,” Erotokritou said.
On Wednesday morning, the audit office posted on Twitter a comment about the Kalogerou report, calling it "incomplete" and "problematic."
DISY: government took steps, made improvements
But DISY MP Demetris Demetriou defended the actions of the government, saying Cyprus’ investment programme needed to be improved and the administration had taken steps to make corrections.
The spokesperson of the ruling party then went on to admit that more checks should have taken place sooner, while adding that the issue of transparency was “up to all of us” as we go forward.