Deputy AG cleared of corruption claims

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Cyprus Deputy Attorney General Savvas Angelides has been cleared of corruption allegations in three cases referred to the independent authority against corruption by the audit office regarding potential conflicts of interest.

Disclosing the findings of an independent probe carried out by a team of foreign experts from the UK who examined three allegations against Angelides, the authority said on Friday there was no evidence of corruption on the part of a police officer, included in the allegations.

However, the findings did note the absence of a statutory procedure for conflict of interest.

The complaints, initially submitted anonymously to the auditor general, involved three individuals facing criminal cases for which Angelides had registered a suspension of criminal prosecution.

The allegations suggested that Angelides had personal and professional associations with these defendants before his appointment as deputy attorney general, potentially leading to a conflict of interest.

The authority stated that such actions could be deemed an abuse of power, constituting a corruption offense.

Upon conducting a preliminary examination, considering case law on the attorney general’s power to suspend criminal prosecutions, and assessing the allegations, the authority decided to proceed with an investigation.

Investigating officers were appointed, including George Campanella, a solicitor from London, Tanveer Qureshi, a barrister also from London, and George Liasides, a lawyer from Nicosia.

The reports submitted to the authority for approval indicated that in the first two complaints involving Angelides, no corruption or abuse of power was established.

There was no evidence of any personal or professional connections between Angelides and the individuals for whom the prosecution had been suspended.

Favourable treatment

The third complaint referred to favourable treatment of a senior police officer accused of corruption.

The officer, named as former head of the drug squad Michalis Katsounotos, was accused of interceding beyond the scope of his duties to secure a stay of prosecution. Angelides had acted as his attorney in the past.

The anticorruption authority will be recommending to the attorney-general a criminal prosecution of the officer regarding his refusal to answer questions imposed by the investigating officers.

The officer’s refusal to answer questions during the investigation was considered “obstruction, with no reasonable cause” cited for the refusal.

The report suggested that the officer’s behaviour and refusal to answer questions might constitute a legal violation.

The allegations against Angelides were linked to his role as an attorney for the officer, with the prosecution being suspended in 2022.

The affair is connected to accusations made by former prisons director Anna Aristotelous, who claimed Katsounotos spied on her and attempted to smear her name.

The attorney-general’s office later decided against bringing charges against Katsounotos, refusing to endorse private criminal prosecutions sought by Aristotelous’ lawyers.

The announcement of the findings of the authority’s probe renewed a war of words between the Auditor General and the Legal Services.

Not unchecked

Interpreting the anticorruption watchdog’s findings, Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides highlighted that following a sloth of allegations, “the Attorney General and his assistant, should not be left unchecked”.

“The Authority confirms the existence of a conflict of interest but states that there is insufficient evidence to establish corruption offenses,” noted Michaelides.

Moreover, the Auditor General disclosed three unresolved complaints concerning the suspension of criminal proceedings.

These complaints involve issues of conflict of interest in the black van illegal surveillance case, significant tax matters concerning a company with public influence, and the suspension of proceedings against five individuals accused of offenses linked to a public contract.

Michaelides and the Audit Service urged President Nikos Christodoulides to take action for the immediate separation of powers between the public prosecutor and legal adviser.

Subsequently, the Attorney General, George Savvides, in his own announcement, expressed his surprise regarding the announcement from the Audit Service.

He noted that once again, the Audit Service “exceeds its constitutional powers. Any further comments on this matter are not within the scope of the present statement.”