Cyprus is in the right direction in regards to the fight against financial crimes. The aim is, in fact, the implementation of a national strategic plan that, as stated by Alexander Apostolides, Assistant Professor of Economic History, Chairperson of the Department of Accounting, Economics and Finance at the School of Business in the European University Cyprus, after the Anti-Fraud Conference organized for the general public.
The conference titled: ‘Re-enforcing the Anti-Fraud Infrastructure - Best Practice Initiatives’, was organized in the framework of the implementation of the European Programme Herculle III – Financial Investigation Coordination in Cyprus organized by the European University of Cyprus and the IMH and funded by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
The aim of the conference was informing the public about the best, modern and most effective fraud avoidance practices applied abroad. Additionally, the work of various institutions that help prevent and combat financial crimes in Cyprus, were also discussed during the presentations.
The event gave the opportunity to foreign experts to share their experience on anti-fraud practices, with the policy officer at the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) David Marcus Nossen, LL. M. Eur., to indicate precisely how Europe thinks and what the next steps are in relation to financial crimes. During the conference the Auditor General Odysseas Ph. Michaelides, the Commissioner of Internal Audit Anna Zavou Christoforou, representatives from the police force in Cyprus, the tax department, the Ministry of Finance and ICPAC had the opportunity to gather for a round table discussion with the public. "Everyone agreed that Cyprus, even though progress has been made, still needs better coordination and the need to formulate relevant national strategy," Apostolides said.
"Our country has made significant progress in terms of combating fraud, several scandals about corruption issues were revealed and people feel satisfied with this development," he stressed, adding: "This shows that the correct steps are taken and it makes sense when a system is corrected to have more cases of fraud being revealed. But there must also be exemplary punishment. I think there has been much improvement, but there are still three other areas that could be further improved. Firstly, legislation needs to be introduced to allow a person, in the public or the private sector, to speak anonymously to the authorities when coming across a scam, without hesitating. With current circumstances in Cyprus today it is impossible to do so, as it has implications on the whistle blowers. Secondly, better information share and thirdly, a question of ethics and trust arises, about how a person feels and acts when making a complaint and whether there are appropriate tools to help him. “The technology is also an area that can help, but Cyprus still has long way to go in this matter: "This requires investment to make everything more efficient," he said. The positive, he added, is that the European University, as part of their own corporate social responsibility, took the responsibility to overcome any bureaucratic procedures and to organise a conference for the fight against fraud: "Our role is to remind everyone that we should work together while having a common goal, "he said.
Additionally, he stressed that the European Union does not have specific authority to dictate how member states should fight fraud in their countries, and hence it is up to each one of them how to act and what to do.
The European University, however, has already committed to continue educating people with the aim of preparing and implementing a relevant national action plan. Indeed, the Strategic Framework will be ready during the first quarter of 2017.