CYPRUS

Trouble in staffing Nicosia commission

Trouble in staffing Nicosia commission

Efforts to assign members to a transparency commission are said to be stalling in Cyprus, with opposition politicians crying foul over connections between some candidates and the country’s disgraced Golden Passports program.

Local media said the House Legal Affairs Committee held a closed-door hearing on Monday where the bios and credentials of 15 individuals were discussed as part of the installation of a new anti-corruption commission.

Following new legislation that calls for tougher audits on politicians and government officials, members of the new advisory board were invited to the hearing to present the candidates, five of whom were to be appointed by President Nicos Anastasiades, along with a commissioner.

But some members of the opposition raised objections over a number of proposed candidates, save for the position of the commissioner, citing concerns over the manner by which the advisory board took steps to select some individuals.

Leftist party AKEL deputy Aristos Damianou and Green Party MP Charalambos Theopemptou took issue with some candidates, pointing to ties to the finance, business and political domains, with the latter also suggesting there were links to political parties.

There were also concerns some nominees had links to legal firms involved in the processing of citizenships via the country’s defunct foreign investment program.

Advisory board head George Arestis, a former Supreme Court judge, said he had advised colleagues to be particularly careful with vetting individuals to ensure they were not actively involved in politics.

Arestis, who was also Cyprus’ first judge at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, also revealed that some 50 individuals on the island had been approached but refused to submit their resumes. He said some of the unwilling candidates were fairly young and did not wish to jeopardize their careers, while others were retirees and would not give up their peace of mind.

Arestis also alluded to another group of candidates who simply did not wish to go through the vetting process and not get picked by the president.

The Group of States against Corruption, under the Council of Europe, has called on Cyprus to enact anti-corruption measures, prompting Parliament to enact legislation to establish a national agency.