Nicosia hosts two-day conference on policies to address organised crime and corruption

A two-day international Conference on Major Policies in Dealing with Organised Crime and Corruption, organised by the Cyprus Police, opened on Thursday in Nicosia, with the participation of representatives from Europol, OLAF, FRONTEX, FBI and the Chief of the Irish Police.

Addressing the conference on behalf of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, Justice and Public Order Minister Ionas Nicolaou stressed that combating organized crime at the national level and taking action in this field must be a collective effort. He noted that it is important for all state services – the Department of Customs, the Tax Department and the Unit for Combating Money Laundering – to cooperate with a view to use every potential that can contribute to addressing this serious problem.

He noted that the determination and zero tolerance by the government, the effective actions taken by the Law Office of the Republic and the Police to prosecute all those involved in corruption and the important contribution of the Auditor General have helped to prosecute or convict, for the first time since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, politicians and other public figures who committed offences.

The minister also said that the Ministry of Justice has promoted legislation and measures with a view to comprehensively address corruption and has drafted a National Strategy against Corruption, taking into consideration the provisions of the relevant International Treaties on Corruption which Cyprus has ratified, recommendations by GRECO, the European Commission and the UN, as well as practices of other countries and national laws.

On his part, Cyprus Police Chief Zacharias Chrysostomou said that the Police have already set forth a series of actions which aim at suppressing the phenomenon of police corruption. For this purpose, he added, it identified, through experimental research, the nature and the extent of police corruption.

Chrysostomou said that without hesitation, the Police acknowledged the existence of the problem, defined it through documented research and then submitted recommendations to the Ministry of Justice and Public Order for the implementation of corrective actions, currently in the form of draft legislation before the Members of the House of Representatives.

“Such measures include the establishment and operation of a Police Internal Affairs Service which will have at its disposal the appropriate legal tools for the effective completion of its work. In terms of exemplary punishment, it is proposed that a permanent, three-member Disciplinary Committee be formed for the hearing of disciplinary cases that will include two members of the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic or two former Judges. This Committee will be able to impose dissuasive disciplinary penalties,” he added.

Chrysostomou said that the Police have taken these actions to become a more efficient and cost effective body, a flexible organization that is able to combat every criminal phenomenon, but also an organization that still enjoys the trust and confidence of the public.

“Consequently, with the ultimate purpose of combating organised crime, the Police are constantly upgrading their logistical means and provide training to its members. At the same time, the Police establish and enhance new and existing channels of communication with organizations and law enforcement agencies in other countries, so that the exchange of information and coordination of actions is immediate and targeted,” he added.

Additionally, he said, “it is imperative that our state reinforces the legal instruments of the executive and judiciary authorities, as has already been done in other EU member states and the United States of America, so that the Police are able to combat all forms of organised crime. A legislative framework is necessary for the interception, under strict conditions, of telephone communications and for the use of other technical means by the police. Currently, the Cyprus Police do not have at their disposal substantial legal tools that are necessary to effectively fight organised crime,” he noted.

Addressing the opening of the ceremony, the Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides noted the role of his office in securing accountability and transparency with a view to fight corruption. He also said that cooperation among the Law Office of the Republic, the Police, the Audit Office and the Unit for Combating Money Laundering has currently reached its highest possible level.

Attorney General Costas Clerides elaborated on the measures that can be effectively taken against corruption and noted the importance of the cooperation and help by citizens to this end.

Head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus George Markopouliotis said that corruption is one of the most important challenges which societies face globally and in Europe, noting that the struggle against it constitutes a priority for the EU.

OLAF Head of Unit Francesco Albore and Europol Chief of Staff Brian Donald also addressed the opening ceremony.

Source: Cyprus News Agency