Auditor, Attorney General in ugly spat

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A row between the legal service and the state Audit Office deepened after Attorney General George Savvides accused Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides of engaging in character assassination and abusing free speech.

Savvides opened fire against the Audit Office when Michaelides forwarded four complaints against his assistant Attorney General Savvas Angelides to the corruption watchdog in two weeks.

Previously, the Auditor General raised a conflict of interest when then-President Nicos Anastasiades called the Attorney General and his assistant to probe any wrongdoing by the Cabinet in awarding Cypriot passports to foreign investors.

Savvides and Angelides had served as Justice and Defence Ministers under Anastasiades during the period in question.

The recent complaints forwarded by Michaelides to the Anti-Corruption Authority involved the infamous black spy van, the golden passport scheme, and interfering with criminal prosecution cases.

The complaint concerning the spy van and how the Legal Service handled the case implied a cover-up by Angelides.

According to the complaint, Angelides’ brother’s law firm represented the owners of the spyware.

The Attorney-general’s office found itself targeted by opposition politicians for dropping the charges against Israeli defendants whose company was involved in the spy van case, which had allegedly eavesdropped on citizens.

The Personal Data Protection Commissioner, on November 4, 2021, imposed an administrative fine of €925,000 on the company ‘Ws Wispear Systems Ltd’ for the illegal processing of personal data, as found during the police investigation.

The company fully accepted its responsibility and paid the fine.

Another complaint relates to the investigation of possible tax fraud by companies belonging to people who exercise public influence.

The Audit Office said it had identified the issue when checking golden passports handed to foreign investors.

Another two cases involve the alleged abuse of power concerning the suspension of criminal prosecutions of people who had been represented in the past by Savvas Angelides’ law firm.

These complaints provoked the reaction of the Assistant Attorney General, who said: “My tolerance for what I am unjustly accused of has run out”.

Weighing in, Savvides accused the Auditor General of “engaging in character assassination and overstepping the limits of free speech”.

“We have a loquacious audit service, which has misunderstood the limit of freedom of speech and proceeds continuously and in a targeted way to slander and assassinate characters and conscience.

“We have reached the point where all institutions and my office are constantly being denounced as corrupt, and you know very well that this has always been the policy of the audit service,” said Savvides.

Savvides said the situation was disappointing.

“We are always faced with two options, either answer the allegations and be judged for creating a conflict or not answer and allow the allegations to remain unanswered”.