By Stelios Orphanides
The head of Cyprus’ anti-money laundering squad Mokas, Eva Papakyriacou, said that Attorney General Costas Clerides is currently reviewing a case about a former top tax collector.
Papakyriacou who was commenting on state radio CyBC on Thursday said that Clerides already has on his desk a report on George Poufos, the former head of the Internal Revenue Department prepared by Mokas, the Unit for Combating Money Laundering, as Mokas is officially known.
According to press reports, Poufos maintained bank accounts at three banks in Greece, Bank of Cyprus (BOC), Piraeus Bank (PB) and National Bank of Greece (NBG), without declaring that he was heading the direct tax collection department at the time, stating that he was merely a chartered accountant. He allegedly deposited at his Greek BOC account two cheques totalling €600,000 in April 2007. The money came from a cash deposit worth €250,000 at NBG and a number of cheques deposited at PB totalling €327,500.
Three weeks after the two cheques were deposited at BOC, an amount of €250,100 was withdrawn and transferred to the account belonging to a third person at a bank in Russia. Poufos also transferred, according to the reports, €400,000 to his own bank account in Russia.
The Russian attorney general informed his Cypriot counterpart in April 2012 that an amount exceeding €440,000 had been transferred to an account Poufos held at Uniastrum, Bank of Cyprus’s loss-making subsidiary lender, which Cyprus’s largest bank acquired in June 2008 and disposed of seven years later. In July 2008, a total of €448,407 was transferred from Poufos’s Uniastrum account to an account held by one of his relatives in Greece.
Poufos denies any wrongdoing, according to the reports, and said that the funds were the product of the sale of a land parcel he co-owned with his brother at a price almost three times as high as that stipulated in the transaction documents.
Papakyriacou, who declined to comment on the press reports on Poufos, also said that an evaluation of the Panama Papers leaks, did not reveal anything which could justify further investigations. The Panama papers contain no information about Poufos.
She said that that Mokas did find “a small number of companies which occupied us (in the past), of which only two cases were in some way related to Cyprus”.
“They could be nominee-directors in some other companies etc.,” she added.
Papakyriacou’s comments came a day after a meeting at of the parliamentary ethics committee at which representatives of various bodies brief lawmakers about the progress in investigating the Panama leaks, as the database of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca is referred to. The database, which was made public in April, contains information about 61 politically exposed persons dealing with Cyprus, three of whom are Cypriots according to the chairwoman of the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, Demetra Kalogerou.
The head of Mokas also said that tax evasion is the likely offence that may emerge from a scrutiny of the Panama Papers, and added that Mokas would cooperate with authorities in other jurisdictions in case suspicious cases are identified concerning foreign citizens.
“As far as our unit is concerned, what we could do was to examine whether any of the individuals or legal entities are listed in these data, had occupied us in the past in any way,” she said. “We have our own database in which we store information we received in any conceivable way; be it cases of suspicious transactions of financial institutions we looked into or following applications of foreign countries”.