Nicosia expresses outrage over US magazine criticism

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cyprus has slammed an article published by respected US business magazine Forbes which portrays the Mediterranean island as a haven for dirty money, sex slavery, terror financing and UN sanction busting for good measure. But the allegations do not stop there. Forbes paints Cyprus as a mecca for cigarette smuggling, a magnet for «Russian kleptocrats» and a hub for the illicit small arms trade, with imports of such weapons making it second only to the United States. The magazine even implicates the island in the sale of conventional weapons to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. «Apparently, the Russians are now leaving because they no longer want to be associated with money laundering, gun running and sex slavery, even if the tax rates are low,» said Forbes. «To the casual observer, this remote island appears to be a quiet vacation spot, with English speakers, safe streets, pleasant beaches and decent restaurants. But Cyprus also became something of an entrepot for dealings in the Middle East,» it added. A furious Cyprus government criticized last month’s article as «anti-Cypriot.» And in a letter made public yesterday, Cypriot Attorney General Petros Clerides accused the magazine of publishing a «defamatory, groundless and prejudiced» article against the authorities and people. «It was shocking to see a whole country described in an article of your esteemed magazine as a way station for rogues and scoundrels,» said the protest letter. «Cyprus is a fully democratic and well-governed state and member of the European Union where law and order prevails.» The attorney general went on to reject the allegations in the article and said Cyprus had cooperated with international bodies in combating international crime and firmly supported the global fight against terror. He said the government had cooperated with UN and Serbian authorities in tracing the missing millions funneled out of Belgrade through Cyprus by the late Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who died in detention in March. Clerides argued that any indirect involvement by companies or individuals in sanctions busting or financial crime was on a «very limited scale» compared to other countries. «We, therefore, fail to understand why Cyprus has been maliciously targeted and effectively described as being the center of international criminality,» the law officer said.