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Institutions Committee: 96% of the cash that entered the Central Bank from 2023 is examined for laundering

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Επιτροπor Θεσ μόν: Το 96% των μετρητόν που εισorλθα&nu ; στην ΚΔ απo το 2023 εξετàζονται για &xi ;πλυμα

“Where did the money go” asked the Institutions Committee on Wednesday, continuing the debate on the issue of cash coming in from airports and possible money laundering, as it appears that the €90m from the €101.6 million being investigated by the prosecuting authorities, there are still no cases before the judiciary.

The Director General of the Ministry of Finance, Giorgos Pantelis, presented to the Commission data requested in a previous discussion of the matter. As he said, from 1/1/2021 to 3/2024, 1077 cash declarations were made at airport customs for an amount of €119 million. Of these, 825 were declared between January 2023 and March 2024 and involved an amount of €105 million. of the 825 statements, 336 are under investigation by the Police and MOKAS, for an amount of €101.6 million, i.e. 96%.

The Deputy Chief of Police, Dimitris Dimitriou, reported that from August 2023 onwards, a large movement was observed in the entry of large sums of money into the Republic. He added that there are currently 4 cases before the court, involving a total amount of around €10 million. For the remaining cases, he said, the investigation continues. He also added that a major case is underway, with the involvement of another European country and Eurojust.

The head of MOKAS, Maria Kyrmizi Antoniou, said that 17 cases for which reports of suspicious transactions were received, were forwarded to the Police for criminal investigation, while for 10 of them corresponding units abroad were informed. Asked if they review ex officio cases, she said that an investigation is done through reports of suspicious transactions, which the agency receives. Indicatively, he said, in 2023 reports were received on around 2,000 cases, which are examined in order of seriousness.

The Commissioner of Taxation, Sotiris Markidis, when asked whether cases of developers who took cash have been reported to the Tax Office, replied that there were several. Specifically, according to the completed 2021 Events, around 1,200 said they had cash transactions worth more than €10,000. In addition, he noted that he is waiting from the Customs Department for a situation with those who stated that they came to Cyprus with cash in order to investigate.

The Director of the Customs Department, Theodora Dimitriou, said that upon entering the Republic, those who declare that they came with cash fill in the origin, destination and purpose of the cash. Asked about it, she said that most people mention buying real estate. However, he noted, there is no way to check, beyond receiving the statement, on the spot. This, he added, is done at a later stage, centrally.

Representing the Ministry of the Interior, Anastasia Kamenos said that through an institutional risk assessment process applied by the Ministry for legal entities, high-risk organizations for money laundering, terrorist financing and tax evasion are identified based on criteria. Such criteria include anonymous sponsorships, large cash flows and other risk factors. As he noted, at the beginning of 2023 25% of entities were judged as high risk. After a due diligence process is followed, cases are sent to MOKAS, Police and Tax Commissioner for further investigation. He noted that examples of high-risk entities include, among others, institutions that deal with cash, football clubs with unspecified sources of income from abroad.

In his remarks after the conclusion of the Committee, the Committee Chairman, Member of DISY, Dimitris Dimitriou, said that an issue arises from the lack of cooperation of the state services regarding the entry of cash into the Republic.

“We are looking for €90+ million in cash,” he said, noting that things are very serious. He added that serious questions and issues are being raised. “This money is in the country, was it invested in the country, has it left the country, being a transfer station, has it gone to the occupied territories? We did not manage to get an answer to these questions”, he said.

He added that there is an intention to propose a law, where the maximum amount of cash that a natural or legal person can spend on the purchase of any good, will be €1,000. As he said, today there is no restriction, as long as the seller, for cash purchases of more than €10,000, declares them to the Tax Commissioner. black holes”, said AKEL Member of Parliament, Irini Charalambidou, asking “what money comes from the marinas? Why, someone who wants to bring money to Cyprus, will not pass it through the official entrances”, he said, noting that the authorities were unable to provide information today.

He noted that the question of MOKAS' ex officio intervention was repeatedly raised, while he said that there are serious gaps in the investigation. “The only thing for sure is that we have to close all the black holes,” he noted, “otherwise we can't move forward.”

The Member of Parliament of AKEL, Andreas Pasiourtidis, said that concern and suspicions are created by the numbers that were heard. “When there is a report that €101 million out of the €119 million that has been declared to have entered the Republic in cash from 1/21 to 3/24 is being investigated by the prosecuting authorities for money laundering, then right now we are turning over a huge amount of cash that entered the Republic”.

He added that the public authorities cannot rest on the fact that they followed some procedures. “The essence is to practice a preventive policy, taking preventive measures as well”, he said, noting that if they catch the cash and enter the territory of the Republic, the work of the prosecuting authorities becomes difficult.

Within the Commission, the independent Member of Parliament Alexandra Attalidou, said that there is no prevention and perception that the issue is very serious and drags Cyprus, with consequences for the whole place, all businesses, future investments and the reputation of the place. He said that some “are not doing their job” and that “some are silent because they are involved”. This cannot continue, he continued, noting that cash and buying real estate with cash should have “raised a red flag” for money laundering issues.

Source: 24h.com.cy

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