EU Justice Commissioner in Cyprus over sanctions

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EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders arrived in Nicosia on Thursday on a two-day visit to discuss with the island’s officials the enforcement of European Union sanctions on individuals and companies with ties to the Kremlin.

First on Reynders’ list was a meeting with the island’s Attorney General George Savvides with whom he reviewed Cyprus’ implementation of sanctions, but also the actions taken by the legal services following a public survey into the golden passport scheme.

Following the meeting on Thursday, Commissioner Reynders said that both sides are working to strengthen the office of the Attorney General.

Reynders noted that the recommendations of the European Commission include the allocation of more financial and human resources, as well as digital tools to fight corruption in the country.

“It is really important to see that real investment is being made in such an independent body for a number of probes and the Commission is willing to allocate more resources,” he said, adding that the discussion on the matter will continue in the coming months.

The Commissioner added that the two sides continue to work on reviewing some of the decisions made in the past under the citizenship for investment scheme, adding that it is very important to establish a transparent procedure for the review of certain decisions taken by authorities.

Findings

As reported by local media, Reynders was to review findings of the Commission latest survey on the rule of law in the Union in 2022.

Reynders noted that Cyprus’ cooperation in providing information regarding the scheme is of great importance, as the Commission moves to strengthen sanctions imposed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He added that the Commission wants to ensure the possibility of freezing assets belonging to oligarchs and Russian and Belarusian entities.

Reynders wondered, why Cyprus has only been able to freeze assets just over €100 mln, while the country has seen a large number of Russian investments and capital transferred to the island.

Concluding, the Commissioner called on the Attorney General to conduct the necessary investigations to identify any sanction busters operating out of Cyprus, an issue he said he would also discuss later in the day with members of parliament.

Nicosia has been in damage-control mode since sanctions were imposed by the US and UK last month on Cypriot ‘fixers’ for allegedly helping Russian oligarchs hide their assets following sanctions imposed on Moscow over Ukraine.

A total of ten Cypriots and 13 foreign-born Cyprus nationals, “oligarch enablers,” have been sanctioned by the US and the UK, with authorities fearing that more Cypriot entities will find themselves on the list due to exposure to Russia.

During his visit, Commissioner Reynders will also be meeting with President Nikos Christodoulides, as well as Justice Minister, Anna Koukkides-Procopiou, and House Speaker Annita Demetriou.