Corruption: the European Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakidou at the heart of a controversy
Credits of several million euros were granted under opaque conditions to the husband of the European Commissioner for Health. The affair has prompted an MEP to ask for explanations from the woman who is in charge of purchasing vaccines on behalf of the EU.
A case has been pursued against the European Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakidou, for several weeks. A report by the Cypriot Court of Auditors, her country of origin, has pointed to the lack of justification around loans amounting to 4 million euros received by her husband Kyriakos Kyriakidou, as revealed on April 6 in the program “Panorama” on the German public channel Das Erste.
The loans were granted by the second largest bank in Cyprus, owned by the state, the Cyprus Cooperative Bank, facing serious financial problems requiring several bailouts with public money. In this regard, the Court of Audit has investigated the agreements concluded with this bank by “politically exposed persons”, known as PEPs.
Stella Kyriakidou is part of this list, under the name of PEP 8, explains “Panorama”. She thus appears in the report of the body about four transactions in which her husband is involved, through the company Maralo Limited, which he runs, for a sum of about 4 million euros received between 2009 and 2017, which has never been repaid.
The Court of Auditors considers these transactions as “very problematic” because Kyriakos Kyriakidou would not have sufficient guarantees in terms of income or assets to obtain loans of this size. In addition, no grounds were recorded to justify the credit authorizations. The president of the financial jurisdiction Odysseas Michaelides explained that this report served to “provide facts and not to make political judgments.” “Every citizen can make up his or her own mind about the legitimacy or otherwise of such transactions,” he told the German television station.
Doubts about the nature of these loans are also fuelled by an omission by Stella Kyriakidou in her transparency statement to the European Parliament. The Cypriot did not mention her husband’s position as director of Maralo Limited. However, it was in the name of this company that he received the various loans, and the company’s register extract shows him as one of the directors. The other activities of Kyriakos Kyriakidou (“director” or “president” of nine different companies) are also indicated in the transparency declaration of his wife.
In response to the “Panorama” report, Stella Kyriakidou said she “had no personal involvement” in the controversy surrounding her husband. But these various elements put together have prompted German MEP Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA) to ask a question in the Parliament in Brussels, addressed on April 6 to the European Commissioner: “Why was this particular management position, as well as the above-mentioned loans, not mentioned in the Commissioner’s declaration of financial interests?”
Speaking to the German media, Sven Giegold – who has not yet received any response from the Commission – justified his approach by explaining that “given the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis, an absolute clarification was necessary” on the part of Stella Kyriakidou, in particular to find out whether these transactions had had “an influence” on the activities of the Commissioner for Health.
In charge of contracts of relative transparency
Because the Commissioner, mandated by the EU to negotiate and sign contracts for the purchase of vaccines against Covid-19, has found herself at the heart of the debate in recent months. For example, the Cypriot had signed on August 14, 2020 an advance purchase contract with the pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca for 300 million doses, with an option for an additional 100 million doses … while hiding several clauses of the contract, as for the agreements with Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi / GSK and CureVac, all of them authorized by Brussels.
This lack of transparency, explained Stella Kyriakidou on 7 January before the European Parliament, was motivated by the fact that the EU was subject to “confidentiality clauses on these contracts, and the disclosure of confidential information at this time would jeopardize” the negotiations still in progress. The contract with AstraZeneca (whose product has since been the subject of several health controversies) is indeed available online, but “contains redacted parts relating to confidential information such as invoice details”.
Nevertheless, if the MEP Sven Giegold questioned a possible conflict of interest on the part of Stella Kyriakidou, it should be noted that the loans taken out by her husband in Cyprus were taken out before she took office at the European Commission in December 2019. And therefore well before the Covid-19 crisis and the issue of vaccines. (ER: In which case, an additional question might be posed: how did she get the position of Commissioner?)
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