Se­nior Cyprus prose­cu­tor al­legedly of­fered pri­vate ad­vice to Rus­sians

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Stephanie Kirch­gaess­ner

One of the most se­nior pros­e­cu­tors in Cyprus has al­legedly of­fered pri­vate ad­vice and in­for­ma­tion to Rus­sian of­fi­cials, rais­ing fur­ther ques­tions about at­tempts by the Krem­lin to ex­ert in­flu­ence over gov­ern­ments of EU coun­tries.

Pri­vate emails pub­lished over the week­end showed a se­nior lawyer within the Cyprus law of­fice pri­vately of­fered as­sis­tance to Rus­sian of­fi­cials in sen­si­tive ex­tra­di­tion cases, even when in­di­vid­u­als had ap­plied for asy­lum.

The pri­vate emails of Eleni Loizidou, who in ef­fect served as deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral and was once nom­i­nated for a seat on the Euro­pean court of hu­man rights, were pub­lished by the Greek Cypriot news­pa­per Poli­tis.

Among the rev­e­la­tions were al­le­ga­tions that Loizidou of­fered ad­vice and, in some cases, to in­ter­vene in pro­ceed­ings on Rus­sians’ be­half.

Reached by the Guardian, Loizidou staunchly de­nied wrong­do­ing and said she was just as “friendly” with Rus­sian coun­ter­parts as she was with Amer­i­can and Bri­tish col­leagues.

She claimed it was her duty to in­form for­eign coun­ter­parts of in­for­ma­tion in ex­tra­di­tion cases and only se­lec­tive emails show­ing her deal­ings with Rus­sia had been pub­lished.

“It is co­op­er­a­tion and I think I am good at my job,” she said. “I have never re­ceived any presents from Rus­sia ex­cept the oc­ca­sional vodka and small cho­co­lates. I have never lived with ex­pen­sive taste. My salary is only €4,000 a month.”

In a 2013 email ex­change be­tween Loizidou and Vladimir Zimin, the deputy head of the depart­ment of in­ter­na­tional le­gal co­op­er­a­tion in the Rus­sian prose­cu­tor gen­eral’s of­fice, Loizidou thanked him for “ex­cel­lent hospi­tal­ity” dur­ing a stay in Moscow and joked that she might re­quire a job of­fer if ad­vice she pri­vately of­fered the Rus­sians about asy­lum cases be­came pub­lic.

In an­other case, Loizidou al­legedly of­fered to in­ter­vene in a case so Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties could win a court delay and more time to pre­pare doc­u­ments. A dif­fer­ent email al­legedly showed her of­fer­ing in­sights into how a case had been legally mis­han­dled in a way that could help the Rus­sian side.

Cyprus and its links to the Krem­lin, par­tic­u­larly in the bank­ing sec­tor, where it has been seen as a hub for money laun­der­ing, have long been a source of con­cern within the EU.

On Mon­day, Costas Clerides, the Cyprus at­tor­ney gen­eral, an­nounced that he had or­dered a dis­ci­plinary in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Rus­sia al­le­ga­tions and would trans­fer Lozi­dou from the law of­fice’s ex­tra­di­tions depart­ment to a sep­a­rate depart­ment. He also called for a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ap­par­ent theft of her emails, which could be con­sid­ered a crim­i­nal off­fence.

Loizidou told the Guardian she be­lieved she had been the tar­get of an ap­par­ent hack of her pri­vate emails, say­ing she had ig­nored sev­eral alerts that her ac­count had been com­pro­mised, be­cause of pend­ing cases of wealthy Rus­sians be­ing ex­tra­dited back to Rus­sia. Loizidou also pointed to re­cent re­marks in which she was crit­i­cal of In­ter­pol’s de­ci­sion to deem cer­tain ar­rest war­rants “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated”.

She has said such de­ci­sions ought to be de­ter­mined by courts.

Her stance ap­peared to be a thinly veiled crit­i­cism of In­ter­pol ig­nor­ing a re­quest from Rus­sia for the ar­rest of Bill Brow­der, the co-founder of Her­mitage Cap­i­tal. He has been ac­cused of fraud in Rus­sia and is a vo­cif­er­ous critic of Vladimir Putin. The Krem­lin’s pur­suit of Brow­der is seen in the US and Europe as be­ing po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

Rus­sia and Cyprus have been en­gaged in a diplo­matic tus­sle over an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Brow­der. The gov­ern­ment in Cyprus had been co­op­er­at­ing with Rus­sian pros­e­cu­tors in their at­tempts to in­ves­ti­gate his fi­nan­cial deal­ings. But a judge in Cyprus re­cently in­ter­vened and ad­vised the gov­ern­ment to delay co­op­er­a­tion un­til the court ruled on a claim by Brow­der’s de­fence team that the ac­tion was a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated at­tack by the Krem­lin.

Cyprus and Rus­sia have been en­gaged in a row over Bill Brow­der, who Moscow wants ar­rested. Pho­to­graph: Richard Saker for the Ob­server

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