House President Demetris Syllouris has become a persona non grata overnight following the release of an embarrassing for Cyprus video in which corruption is highlighted, Phileleftheros reported on Thursday.
In the Al Jazeera expose, undercover journalists pose as middlemen for an imaginary Chinese investor with a conviction showing Syllouris offering to assist the now-suspended citizenship by investment scheme process.
Al Jazeera’s embarrassing video on Monday sparked wide condemnation on social media and daily protests by citizens objecting to corruption and calling for his immediate resignation.
Political parties have also raised the red flag to Syllouris with MPs on Wednesday abstaining from parliamentary committee sessions in protest.
At the same time, behind the scenes talks among party leaders focus on how to force him to step down so that the smooth operation of parliament continues.
The beleaguered Speaker’s statement earlier in the week that he plans to temporarily suspend himself from parliamentary duties as of Monday until an investigation ordered by the Attorney General in the incident is completed sparked additional anger.
On Wednesday, Syllouris went one step further releasing a letter he sent to the Attorney General saying he is not going to object to a possible request for his parliamentary immunity to be waived.
The controversial video is titled The Cyprus Papers Undercover and Monday’s revelation comes two months after Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit published The Cyprus Papers, a leak of 1,400 documents.
This shows Cyprus to have regularly failed to adhere to its own laws and allowed convicted criminals and fugitives to obtain its citizenship.
Following the investigation, Cyprus defended the programme, saying there had been several mistakes in recent years but the tightening of laws and applicants’ background checks were sufficient to stop criminals from obtaining a passport.
The government on Tuesday announced its suspension, as of November 1.
Cyprus’s citizenship through investment programme grants a Cypriot passport to anyone who invests at least $2.5m in the country, often through real estate investments.
Since 2013, when the passport programme started, the country has made more than seven billion euros. The amount is used to keep the nation’s failing economy afloat.
Although legal, the programme has been criticised regularly by the European Union and anti-corruption NGOs, saying it has facilitated the laundering of stolen assets from Russia and beyond.