Police have submitted two new case files to the Law Office of the Republic, regarding the Cyprus’ ‘golden passports’ programme, suggesting they go to trial.
The two cases, concerning two different law firms acting as service providers, are included in the findings of an inquiry committee, under Myron Nicolatos, which investigated the controversial citizenship scheme.
According to Phileleftheros, approximately 130 cases have opened as a result of probes into the Cyprus Citizenship by Investment programme, prompted by an Al Jazeera investigation. Those accused face charges ranging from tax evasion, forgery, conspiracy to defraud the state and graft, among others.
So far, investigations into seven naturalisations cases have been completed, with four of them going to trial.
Phileleftheros writes that investigations will take time to conclude since authorities must acquire testimonies from abroad.
Recently, Larnaca Criminal Court acquitted all defendants in the first trial regarding the ‘golden passports’ scheme.
Similar cases involving big law firms acting as service providers are currently under investigation.
The Cyprus Citizenship by Investment programme was scrapped following a public outcry after an Al Jazeera reportage showed former House Speaker Demetris Syllouris and opposition Akel MP and land developer, Christakis Giovani, telling an undercover reporter they were ready to help a fictitious Chinese criminal acquire a Cypriot passport.
Convicted criminals were officially barred from applying, which would have disqualified the Chinese client.
However, lawyer Andreas Pittadjis, appeared in the reportage saying that he could change the client’s name on the Cypriot passport, giving him a new identity, and effectively erasing his criminal record.
Under the scheme, passports could be issued for a minimum of 2.15 million euros investment.
Antonis Antoniou, a top executive in Giovani’s development company, was shown in the video urging the undercover reporter – who posed as a representative for the Chinese criminal – to tell his client to invest up to 20 million euros in Cyprus to “skip the waiting list.”
A 2021 inquiry into the citizenship scheme found that 53 per cent of the 6,779 citizenships granted between 2007 and 2020 were unlawful.