IS CYPRUS A HAVEN FOR ILLICIT MONEY?
We have become quite accustomed for some time now to hearing news, comments, and analyses about Cyprus being a haven for illicit money. Leftists who used to chant slogans in the past like “Cyprus cannot be a NATO base!”, can now rightfully say, “Cyprus cannot be a haven for illicit money!”. Jokes aside, in many respected and realistic international reports, the issue of illicit money is shown as one of our country’s biggest problems. Within our own society, there are those who point to the luxury and expensive vehicles roaming our streets as evidence that we are a “haven for illicit money.” According to those who support this notion, the fact that such large sums of money are spent on luxury cars while our country lacks production with exchange value raises suspicions about the source of the funds. Personally, I don’t find this line of thought to be very sound. It is true that there are quite a few individuals in the TRNC who have amassed wealth through property and real estate speculation, in other words, through various property-land deals. So, as you can understand, luxury vehicles cannot be solely attributed to illicit money.
Previously, when illicit money was mentioned, the southern part of Cyprus used to come to mind. To the extent that the part of the island where Greek speakers resided was globally recognized as one of the most prominent havens for illicit money. Many international money laundering scandals were centred on the Greek Cypriots. This was the case before and even during the early stages of their EU membership. Nowadays, those dealing with illicit money may have shifted their businesses to our side as the operations have tightened so much. We also read news reports suggesting that some currency exchange bureaus are allegedly being used for money laundering. These allegations need to be clarified and resolved as soon as possible.
In the past, money laundering activities were taken care of by organized crime groups. However, within the framework of the new world order known as globalization, the underground aspect of financial flow has also come to the forefront, partially changing this situation. Those engaged in money laundering are no longer only criminal organizations. The more companies and firms that manage large sums of money evade taxes the higher their reputation is in the eyes of their clients. In the past, if you had illicit money or money you wanted to hide from taxation and scrutiny, you would have to put it in a suitcase and deposit it in a Swiss bank, opening a secret account. There used to be a certain limit to the amount of money involved. Now, money that cannot fit in suitcases can be transferred from one country to another through the internet, circulating between tax havens and disappearing in an instant. As this is the case, prominent financial experts and advisors come into play. The scope of the issue exceeds the capacity of organized crime groups.
While contemplating the allegations of illicit money, I suddenly remembered that our country was used as a place of exile for the past four centuries, where criminals were sent as a punishment. In other words, living in our country was considered a sentence, and Cyprus, especially during the Ottoman era, was a landmass designated for the exile of individuals who committed crimes against the empire. Later, a civil war broke out, and the “partnership state” remained under the control of one of the two sides. The local co-governors of the state that were proclaimed along with three NATO-member guarantor countries destroyed the constitutional order – by killing their own citizens through armed gangs. Meanwhile, one of the guarantors staged a military coup against the elected administrators of the country, attempting to assassinate the president. The second guarantor, realizing that this situation would lead to a massive massacre based on previous examples, conducted a military operation, and the country split into two as of 1974. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the bilateral status of the island. The United Nations has taken numerous initiatives to address the conflict, the war, and disagreements, but the parties have not been able to find a solution over a ceasefire agreement, based on equality through power sharing within a unified state. After a while, the intelligent and pragmatic individuals on both sides quickly adapted to this situation and even managed to profit from the current state of this country. This is the current situation.
Another desperate reality we should not forget is that one of the main reasons for the continuation of the ceasefire situation and the unlawful status for years is to ensure the continuation of such manoeuvres at the global level…
We started this article with the issue of illicit money, so let’s conclude with it. This issue should be resolved as soon as possible through confidence-building measures. We also hear that the country’s decision-makers also want to take certain measures. Recently, an ambitious association was even established regarding this matter. They are conveying their views and suggestions to the country’s decision-makers. I hope the issue of illicit money, which in fact negatively affects the economies of both sides and which can lead to more permanent problems in the future, becomes an important item on the political agenda as soon as possible. Let’s not forget that tomorrow might be too late.