Cyprus MPs need to adopt anti-corruption code

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Cyprus MPs need to adopt a code of conduct to prevent corruption by addressing conflict of interests and lobbying influence, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) report said.

It also recommended – in light of the golden passports scandal – that MPs’ asset declaration should be more comprehensive while control over such declarations needs strengthening.

GRECO said fully implementing these recommendations has become “all the more pressing” after two senior MPs were caught in an Al Jazeera sting operation appearing to facilitate a Cyprus passport for a criminal Chinese investor.

Parliament speaker Demetris Syllouris and AKEL MP and real estate developer Christakis Giovanis—both of whom were exposed by Al Jazeera to be key enablers of the scheme—both resigned from their posts.

Cyprus dropped its scheme after Al Jazeera revealed how prominent politicians were willing to enable wealthy individuals with criminal records to obtain passports.

The report said that out of 16 recommendations from 2016, seven have been fully implemented, six remain partly implemented and three have not been implemented.

GRECO’s second compliance report assesses measures taken by Cyprus to implement these recommendations concerning corruption prevention with respect to MPs, judges and prosecutors.

This report follows an initial compliance report published in 2018.

“Although a movement towards simplifying and clarifying revenues and allowances received by MPs for discharging their office has been engaged, it has not been completed,” the report said.

GRECO acknowledges the preparation of a draft Code of Conduct for MPs since its initial compliance report, but Parliament is still examining the draft.

“In the meantime, several GRECO recommendations for MPs concerning conflicts of interest, contacts with lobbyists, declaration of gifts, and dedicated training against corruption have yet to be implemented or remain partly implemented.”

GRECO welcomed since its previous compliance report, the Judicial Code of Ethics as binding and enforceable on all judges, with the possibility of disciplinary proceedings in case of a breach.

“This is a very positive development, which follows the visit of the GRECO President to Cyprus in February 2019 and constructive dialogue with the Cyprus authorities.”

A recent amendment to the revised Judicial Practice Direction of 2019 has been introduced requiring judges to recuse themselves if a family member or a colleague or the employer or an employee or a partner of the family member appears before them.

“This will contribute to a greater emphasis in the Judicial Code of Ethics on the prevention of conflicts of interest, in particular considering recent conflict of interest cases that have been brought to light.”

The report acknowledged that the Judicial Training School is up and running, and integrity training sessions have already taken place and initial training has been planned and is about to take place.

GRECO also welcomed “formalized procedures” for judicial appointments and promotions that have been made public, contributing to greater transparency.

It also “strongly supports” on-going reforms to prevent potential or perceived situations of conflicts of interest within the Supreme Council of Judicature.

As for prosecutors, a new bill providing for and safeguarding the independence and autonomy of the Law Office of the Republic has been submitted to the executive.