No taxpayer money had been misused when President Nicos Anastasiades chartered an aircraft last September without following public contract procedures because the cost was low, a report by the Auditor General’s Office said on Friday.
And this prompted the Presidency to promptly issue a statement welcoming the much-anticipated report’s outcome.
“The report fully justifies the President of the Republic and dismisses yet another attempt to smear his name,” it said.
Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides who is at loggerheads with Anastasiades had launched a probe after it emerged that the Presidency had used a private jet to travel to New York for the UN General Assembly.
It was only after the aircraft was forced to return to New York with a mechanical problem that it became known the President had been using a private jet.
The jet was offered by a Saudi businessman close to the Anastasiades family who happens to also hold Cypriot citizenship. And this prompted the Opposition’s outcry.
“Criteria should be set for accepting offers of this kind and these should be also presented in writing before the Minister of Finance,” the report said.
“Procurement procedures for chartering an aircraft were certainly not complied with (in this case)…but there is no question of public money being misused,” it added.
Reports at the time said the jet, a Boeing 737, was permanently stationed at Larnaca airport.
The President travelled abroad 19 times for work in 2018 and 16 times between January and September 2019, according to the Auditor General’s report.
Out of those, 14 trips were on scheduled flights, 17 on chartered flights without cost for the state, and two at a cost of €60,000 each. Two trips involved scheduled outbound flights while the return was on a chartered aircraft.
In August 2018, the Anastasiades family travelled to the Seychelles on a private trip courtesy of the Saudi owner of the jet.
However, the report noted that since the use of the aircraft was part of the friendly relations the President has with the aircraft’s owner, and was not an offer to the Republic of Cyprus in any way, there is no tax issue.