NewsLocalEx parliamentary speaker, three others, enter plea on Monday in controversial passport...

Ex parliamentary speaker, three others, enter plea on Monday in controversial passport scheme

Former parliamentary speaker Demetris Syllouris, an ex opposition MP and two other individuals on Monday face corruption charges in court over a controversial cash-for-passports scheme championed by EU-member Cyprus before it was abruptly scrapped in 2020.

The hearing is before Nicosia district court but – as the charges are criminal in nature – the trial itself will be later referred to a criminal court.

The indictments are based on the findings of a committee of inquiry headed by Myron Nicolatos, as well as an expose made by the Al Jazeera network in late 2020.

The four face five counts on two charges – conspiracy to defraud the Republic, and influencing a public official in violation of the law that ratifies the Council of Europe Convention on the Criminalisation of Corruption.

Al Jazeera’s undercover video showed former House president Syllouris and former main opposition Akel MP Christakis Giovanis, one of his property development firm’s associate and a local lawyer, offering help to a pretend Chinese businessman with a criminal record to secure citizenship.

Last year the committee of inquiry here found that 53 per cent of the 6,779 citizenships granted overall were unlawful.

And that politicians and institutions had political responsibilities while certain applicants and service providers may be held criminally culpable. The probe covered the period from the scheme’s inception in 2007, through to August 2020.

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