President Nicos Anastasiades acknowledged on Thursday that he could have avoided using a private jet belonging to a Saudi businessman for a family holiday in the Seychelles, but denied that he was in violation of the Ethics Code.
Accusations of violating the Code of Ethics that Ministers are also obliged to strictly follow were recently fired against Anastasiades’ use of a jet belonging to a Saudi businessman, who was granted a Cyprus passport under the citizenship for investment scheme in 2014.
In a written statement submitted to the House Watchdog Committee on Thursday, Anastasiades said that he had not been granted use of the jet as a gift but as a friendly gesture.
As such, the President noted, “I did not judge that the use of the aircraft was in violation of Code of Ethics.”
In fact, Anastasiades added, the friendly relations he shares with the Saudi owner of the jet have allowed the Government to save on taxpayer money to the tune of €592,000.
“I would like to point out, that it is the first time, since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, that a State Official is criticized by the opposition not because they wasted public funds, but because they didn’t,” Anastasiades said.
Despite this, Anastasiades added, “my action has triggered an unnecessary backlash… and for this reason I do not hesitate to recognize that taking into consideration what followed, use of the aircraft, for the trip in question, could have been avoided.”
According to the Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides, the President of the Republic is not bound by the Code of Ethics he has Ministers sign upon assuming the post.
Anastasiades came under fire last month after the publication of a report by the audit service, detailing the President’s use of private jets for trips abroad.
The report mentioned Anastasiades’ use of the jet owned by the Saudi businessman for a family holiday to the Seychelles, concluding that the incident did not involve any misuse of public funds, but failed to touch on any ethical issues that may have arisen from the President’s actions.
It is also known that Anastasiades had used the same jet to travel to New York last September, when he addressed the UN General Assembly.
The audit service also pointed the finger at the businessman’s naturalization, and claimed that the Saudi owner of the jet, along with 41 others (6 investors and 36 of their family members), was wrongfully granted citizenship as they did not meet the minimum investment criteria.
Anastasiades also denied that any discounts were made for the six investors, stating that they had all invested €19.8 million, well above the €15 million required by the scheme criteria.