The efforts by court-appointed collectors to impound a Cyprus government limousine on Thursday has prompted a war of words a day later between the outgoing government and opposition forces on the one hand, and the Attorney General with the judges on the other.
Trade Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis, who leaves office in a week’s time after a second round of presidential elections, had to fight to keep hold of his ministerial limousine when collectors tried to serve warrants to confiscate state property.
The receivers were acting on behalf of property owners whose lands were expropriated by the state but were not properly compensated for their loss.
The six debt collectors walked up to the Ministry of Finance to enforce a court decision to seize the movable assets, including BMW Series 7 limousines and office furniture, but were faced by a surprised Sylikiotis who appeared in the presence of media as being quite angry.
A scuffle broke out as the collectors tried to remove the driver and take his keys away, but the limo was eventually driven to safety in the basement of the Ministry of Finance.
Attorney General Petros Clerides admitted that he tried to mediate in the court decision that relates to a property worth about 1 mln euros that should have been used for a public school in 2003. The land was never used and three years later was returned to the owner, who also returned the money, only to face a new expropriation order for which the state has not yet rewarded him.
The property owner now claims 5 mln euros in damages. But the receivers were also acting for 30 other cases worth 15 mln euros.
The Supreme Court said in a statement on Friday that the court order was initially issued in March 2012, and that the government tried to buy time. However, all other efforts failing, the plaintiff insisted on the execution of the order and the receivers did their duty, it said.
“As regards the procedure, the confiscation efforts should not have taken place in front of the media with the whole process taking an unnecessary dimension.”
However, the Supreme Court announcement added that “the Attorney General’s statements, who questioned why a confiscation order was not served on the property of the Courts and the Judges, at best are considered inappropriate, out of place and unfortunate.”
Communist Akel party officials said the whole attempt was an attempt to smear the outgoing administration and conceived by the opposition, whose leader, Nicos Anastassiades is widely expected to win Sunday’s presidential elections.
The Anastassiades campaign quickly responded saying, “we witnessed two tragic events – the substance of the matter and the public image. The matter is that the state can no longer pay its obligations, while the image is that of court-appointed receivers trying to impound a cabinet minister’s car. Both are humiliating for our nation.”
The local Greens party also joined the debate saying that the whole incident is indicative of a bankrupt situation and a policy by the Christofias administration that has spelled disaster for the Republic of Cyprus.
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