A WELL-KNOWN Larnaca businessman whose interests were targeted by a police anti-gambling raid over the weekend announced yesterday he would be running for a seat in parliament next year.
“It makes me think. Maybe they heard I will be standing as an independent candidate and they want to silence me,” Antonis Fanieros told reporters yesterday. “I will speak in parliament for the common people, the poor, who are not allowed to voice their complaints.”
Fanieros denied being involved with online gambling and a much-publicised extrajudicial ring that collects private debts.
He said a woman had simply asked for his help in collecting a debt and he invited the debtor for coffee. There, they agreed for the debtor to pay off his debt in three months.
And Fanieros paid for the coffees without receiving anything for his services, he said.
Fanieros said he deals with real estate and his affairs were crystal clear.
“If I succeed in getting elected you will see how the state will work for the welfare of the poor people,” he said.
Asked to comment on Fanieros’ intention to run for parliament, Attorney-general Petros Clerides said any citizen who fulfilled the conditions was free to do so.
“If Mr. Fanieros has the qualifications in accordance with the law and the constitution to be a candidate he has every right,” Clerides said during a lunchtime news show on state broadcaster CyBC.
Fanieros has a prior conviction in connection with a shares scam, but it was not immediately clear if this could disqualify him from running.
Article 64 of the constitution states that a person shall be qualified to be a candidate if they have not been “convicted of an offence involving dishonesty or moral turpitude … “
The police raid and its aftermath again brought to the fore the issue of online gambling and the proliferation of establishments offering such services.
Justice Minister Loucas Louca vowed yesterday that police would continue to clamp-down on online gambling joints, gradually covering all districts.
However, there is still no law regulating online gambling and this could make prosecution difficult.
Cyprus has sent a draft law to the EU for approval, designed to put a stop to the phenomenon.
Many of these establishments provide the service through Malta with the government unable to act as they would be seen as restricting the freedom of transfer of services.
This could be bypassed if the government proves to the European Commission that regulation was necessary for reasons of public interest, Clerides said.
Others just open a shop, install some computers and offer online gambling.
The attorney-general admitted there are so many types of such establishments that one could not draw a line and separate the legal from the illegal ones.