Centre parties Diko and Citizens Alliance on Tuesday called on House President Demetris Syllouris to immediately step down following new revelations by Al Jazeera on Cyprus’ ‘golden passports’ scandal.
The two parties said in separate statements that Syllouris’ actions violate the ethics and credibility of one of the EU member state’s highest institution which is the Parliament. And that he should immediately resign.
Specifically, an Al Jazeera investigation reveals how Syllouris is implicated in a scheme that allows criminals to buy a European passport using the country’s citizenship through an investment programme.
A video released on Monday and titled The Cyprus Papers Undercover shows Syllouris being willing to aid and abet convicted criminals to obtain Cypriot citizenship, granting the criminal access to the European Union’s internal markets and visa-free travel.
The two parties said in separate statements Syllouris’ actions violate the ethics and credibility of the country’s high institutions such as the Parliament.
The video also implicates Opposition Akel member of parliament, Christakis Giovanis, who is also one of the country’s largest real estate developers.
Using an undercover operative called Billy, who claimed to represent a Chinese investor sentenced to seven years in prison for money laundering, the Qatar-based network gained access to some of the country’s highest-ranking politicians involved in the scheme.
Monday’s revelation comes two months after Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit published The Cyprus Papers, a leak of 1,400 documents showing Cyprus 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.
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 ($8bn). 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.
Using an undercover operative called Billy, who claimed to represent a Chinese investor sentenced to seven years in prison for money laundering, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit gained access to some of the country’s highest-ranking politicians involved in the scheme.
From the start, Billy was open about the prison sentence, which would officially disqualify the non-existing applicant for the Cyprus Investment Programme (CIP).
However, Billy was told by a real estate developer all the way up to the speaker of parliament that the prison sentence would not be an issue as long as enough money was invested.