Cyprus MPs Worry Over Anti-Money Laundering Efforts Coordination

In a recent session of the House legal affairs committee, Cyprus MPs have expressed grave concerns about the country’s commitment to money laundering compliance. The alarm was raised following revelations of a significant gap in coordination and communication between the police, the money laundering unit (Mokas), and the customs office.

Over the past four years, an alarming €160 million in cash has entered Cyprus, sparking intense scrutiny over the effectiveness of the authorities in handling investigations related to tax evasion and money laundering. Akel MP Irene Charalambides has called for the resignation of the heads of these departments, stating that their inaction has laid bare the country’s negligence in this critical area.

The issue came to light following the arrest of a 31-year-old Ukrainian woman facing 60 counts of money-laundering related charges, accused of bringing €8 million in cash into Cyprus over several trips within the last year. This case has put the spotlight on Cyprus’s oversight capabilities, with MPs questioning the efficiency of current measures.

During the session, Diko MP Zacharias Koulias requested a closed-door meeting after an attorney-general’s office representative urged MPs to exercise caution in their discussions to preserve the accused’s right to innocence. The request was supported by MPs from Disy, Diko, and Depa, with Akel and independent MP Alexandra Attalides opposing.

Charalambides also highlighted a “strange meddling” incident from 2023, where police allegedly instructed customs not to communicate directly with Mokas. She criticized the current system, where customs provides Mokas with a quarterly USB report on declared cash sums, arguing for real-time access to such information.

Attalides called for an investigation into institutionalized corruption, pointing to a significant oversight problem. Despite claims by government officials that Cyprus has taken steps to combat money laundering, questions remain about the effectiveness of these measures and the implementation of the law.

Committee chair and Disy MP Demetris Demetriou labeled the lack of coordination between state services as “criminal,” noting that more than €100m in cash has repeatedly entered Cyprus without proper checks. He emphasized that the issue is not due to a lack of legislation but rather a lack of cooperation and initiative by those in charge.

As Cyprus continues to face scrutiny over its money laundering oversight, it is clear that significant improvements are needed to ensure compliance and coordination between its enforcement agencies.

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