Two UK-based legal experts are tasked with helping authorities investigate corruption allegations involving high-ranking officials, while the watchdog authority says Cypriot applicants were unwilling to probe local officials.
The Independent Authority Against Corruption in Cyprus on Thursday announced its decision to appoint the two lead investigators, George Kampanella and Tanveer Qureshi, both based in London.
The investigative team, which also includes Cypriot lawyer George Liasides, is working on two cases that are expected to be concluded promptly.
The watchdog has been tasked by the government to investigate corruption allegations involving controversial ‘golden passports’ focusing on high-ranking officials, including former President Nicos Anastasiades.
In its announcement, the corruption watchdog said that it would be broadening its search for suitable candidates to join a team under the two lead investigators.
It expressed concern over the fact that despite more than 90 applications from Cypriots, the majority were reluctant to investigate senior officials.
“However, in cases where the complaints concerned local officials, the vast majority of candidates expressed a reluctance in undertaking this type of investigation,” said the authority.
“As a result, the authority widened its search for suitable and competent applicants from organisations and institutions abroad”.
The Authority said its conducting investigations under conditions of confidentiality, ensuring that no information is released regarding the progress of the cases.
George Kampanella, a Partner at Taylor Rose MW Solicitors in London, has extensive experience representing individuals and corporations facing investigations and prosecution related to serious fraud, money laundering, bribery, and corruption.
Kampanella was born and raised in England after his family immigrated from Cyprus to the UK in the 1950s.
Tanveer Qureshi, a Barrister and Member of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, specialises in cases involving fraud and bribery.
He has appeared in cases prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and commercial cases involving financial wrongdoing.
Tanveer’s cases have involved allegations of financial mismanagement arising from the commercial and banking sectors.
George Liasides, an English-qualified solicitor based in Cyprus, has been managing a wide range of cases since 1994.
The authority said, “for transparency reasons… that Liasides handled five passport applications during the Cyprus Investment programme, but none of these cases were referred to the Inquiry Commission appointed to investigate the Programme”.
Earlier in the year, the anti-corruption watchdog decided that complaints against former President Anastasiades and the assistant Attorney General, Savvas Angelides, take priority in the investigation conducted by internationally accredited lawyers.
The first complaint involves allegations by left-wing AKEL MP Christos Christophides against Anastasiades concerning the alleged conflict of interest as his former law firm offered services to suspect investors seeking to obtain a “golden passport”.
Christophides claimed that 353 passports were issued to clients of law firms belonging or related to the former President or cabinet members.
He also accused Anastasiades of using his position as President to benefit family members.
According to Christophides, a passport was given to a Russian investor who owns a banking institution housed in a Limassol building, allegedly bought from one of the former President’s son-in-laws.
Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides raised a conflict of interest when then-President Anastasiades asked Attorney General George Savvides 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 that period.
Michaelides forwarded another set of complaints to the Anti-Corruption Authority involving the infamous Israeli spy van.
The complaint implies there was a cover-up by Angelides.
According to the complaint, Angelides’ brother’s law firm represented the owners of the spyware.