Cyprus is ‘un­fairly tar­geted’ over dirty money claims

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - CYPRUS -

In re­sponse to re­cent bad pub­lic­ity over dirty money in Cyprus, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Har­ris Ge­or­giades ar­gues that an­ti­money-laun­der­ing pro­ce­dures are stricter than in any other Euro­pean state, while a cam­paign to raise in­ter­na­tional aware­ness is un­der­way.

The com­ments came af­ter Cyprus was among the top ten worse per­form­ers in com­bat­ing money laun­der­ing and ter­ror­ism fi­nanc­ing risks (ML/TF) for 2018, ac­cord­ing to the Basel Anti-Money Laun­der­ing (AML) In­dex. Cyprus now has a higher risk rat­ing in the in­dex even though it is rel­a­tively low when com­pared to the worst of­fend­ers.

Ge­or­giades was speak­ing at the 4th an­nual lec­ture he gave at the Uni­ver­sity of Cyprus on the Cypriot econ­omy.

He said Cyprus has done a lot to cor­rect is­sues of the past. If a non-Cypriot tries to open a bank ac­count in Cyprus and he com­pares the pro­ce­dure to open­ing a bank ac­count in any other Euro­pean state, I am con­vinced that in Cyprus the pro­ce­dure will be stricter,” said Ge­or­giades.

“The con­cern and fear felt by every­one, banks, state and Cen­tral Bank meant that in Cyprus we have over­com­pen­sated in or­der to re­store our im­age and to re­duce the risks,” added.

The Fi­nance Min­is­ter con­ceded there is in­creased fo­cus in­ter­na­tion­ally and on a Euro­pean level on this mat­ter and in spite of im­proved pro­ce­dures the govern­ment has in­tro­duced, there are re­ports, which are more of­ten than not un­fair to Cyprus.

To cor­rect this im­age of Cyprus be­ing a haven for dirty Rus­sian money, Ni­cosia has wheeled out an aware­ness cam­paign at an in­ter­na­tional level out­lin­ing the “cor­rec­tive steps” Cyprus has taken.

This in­cluded the Cypriot del­e­ga­tion meet­ing with the rel­e­vant US Un­der Sec­re­tary of State, in In­done­sia, on the side­lines of the IMF’s an­nual meet­ing.

“The meet­ing went very well. The con­cerns raised by the Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties have been ad­dressed, whether they re­lated to the banks or some in­vest­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions,” said Ge­or­giades.

“This is the path to fol­low with spe­cific steps and cor­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion so that our coun­try’s rep­u­ta­tion and cred­i­bil­ity on this mat­ter is fully re­stored.”

On out­side crit­i­cism about the cit­i­zen­ship by in­vest­ment pro­gramme, Ge­or­giades said that the govern­ment care­fully mon­i­tors the pro­gramme and that it has al­ready mod­i­fied the scheme twice and has made scru­tiny pro­ce­dures tighter.

“We are vig­i­lant at all times, mon­i­tor­ing and re­view­ing this pro­gramme like any other tool, in or­der to be able to cor­rect it again if needs be,” he said.

Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional said that schemes run by EU coun­tries like Cyprus of­fer­ing pass­ports and res­i­dency per­mits to wealthy for­eign­ers pose risks of money laun­der­ing as some of the pro­grammes are not prop­erly man­aged.

Ma­jor US me­dia out­lets like CNN and the Wall Street Jour­nal have re­cently ac­cused Cyprus of be­ing a haven for the ill-got­ten gains of Rus­sia’s wealthy ty­coons.

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