The Auditor General’s Office has accused the government of bending the rules on the citizenships for investment programme, by granting passports outside the framework of legal processes and speeding up the process in connection with the casino resort investment.
In a written statement, the Auditor General claims that the government is refusing to grant access to 18 cases of individuals who were given preferential citizenships and special treatment for being casino resort investors.
The Auditor’s Office said it had located 23 citizenship applications with the notice ‘Interior Ministry directions to speed up process’.
When it came to these applications, the statement said, the citizenship process time was 169 days in comparison to the other 725 applications, in which the average processing time was 327 days.
During a meeting of the parliamentary watchdog committee on October 8 this year, the Director General of the Interior Ministry said that 18 out of the 23 cases involved the casino resort and that the Interior Minister had given express instructions to speed up the process for these people, in order to facilitate their investments in Cyprus.
According to the Auditor General’s Office, on evidence it was able to collect for 6 out of the 18 cases connected to the casino resort, all 18 people were granted passports as a group following a cabinet decision on July 25, 2019, without fulfilling the criteria at the time.
The 6 people located by the Auditor General are CEOs in the parent company of the casino administrator’s firm, they have not paid or prepaid any tax and they do not own a home of any value. The other 12 people are not included in the managers of the two Cypriot companies connected to the casino resort investment.
Citizenships for CEOs, it is noted, should have brought the Republic income of 100 thousand euro in three years and furthermore, the individuals in question should have bought a home of at least half a billion in value.
According to the statement, the Interior Ministry refused to provide a copy of all the files on October 23rd.
The Auditor General’s Office notes that it is responsible to go through all money collected and spent, securing they were conducted in accordance with the legal framework and international standards. In doing so, the Auditor General needs copies of the relevant books, documents and files, in accordance to the Constitution.
The Auditor General reiterated his disagreement with an opinion issued by the Attorney General on September7th, that all files in the possession of the Interior Ministry and connected to the passports for citizenships programme, must only be viewed by a four member investigative committee.
He once again appeals to the government to respect the constitutional duties of the Office and allow it unhindered access and a comprehensive investigation.
Millions of euro in income has been lost, the Auditor General notes.