As the ‘spy van’ saga continues, the Interior Ministry on Wednesday clarified that Israeli businessman Avraham Shahak Avni was granted Cypriot citizenship in 2015 as he met the citizenship by investment scheme’s criteria.
Avni who heads the “Jewish Community of Cyprus” since 2014 operates a company housed in the same building in Larnaca as that which owns the spy van. His company also deals with security.
“The application had been examined by two ministries – that of Interior and that of Finance – as well as by the state’s security authorities, and was found to meet both the financial criteria as well as all other conditions set,” the statement by the Interior Ministry said.
“Therefore, the application was approved by the Council of Ministers on 25.11.2015,” it added.
Investigations into the case of the spy van seized by police 10 days ago are reportedly at an advanced stage.
The ‘spy van’ story was showcased in a Forbes video story broadcast several months ago that recently went viral in Cyprus.
Forbes had named the owner of the van as ex-Israeli intelligence officer Tal Dilian, who allegedly heads a Cyprus-registered company that owns the vehicle.
The case took such dimensions to prompt a meeting last week between President Nicos Anastasiades and Opposition Akel leader Andros Kyprianou. Also attending the Presidential Palace meeting were the Police Chief and the Justice Minister.
It was Akel which had been pressing for an investigation following the press reports and querying what the government is doing to protect personal data and privacy.
In the meantime, the Jewish Community had issued a statement rejecting all allegations in recent articles published in the media and stood by Avni saying “he is highly respected by the community”.
And the law firm representing Avni has also issued a statement saying a letter had been sent to the Police Chief denouncing leaks concerning their client.
The statement also warned that criminal offences were likely to occur and called for the immediate intervention of the police chief.