News Local Cyprus promises reform to fight graft after passport uproar

Cyprus promises reform to fight graft after passport uproar

The president of Cyprus said authorities on Friday will unveil deep reforms to fight corruption, months after scrapping a citizenship for investment programme that was marked by allegations of graft.

Thousands of rich non-Europeans benefited from a revamped scheme from 2013 offering a passport and visa-free travel throughout the European Union in return for a minimum 2 million euro investment. The country was rattled by the graft allegations and the programme was suspended in November after disclosures of lax oversight.

“Measures which we will announce tomorrow represent the biggest intervention yet to create the strongest possible net against corruption,” President Nicos Anastasiades said in a televised statement on Thursday evening. He is due to testify on Feb. 2 in a public inquiry into the passport scheme.

A former speaker of the island’s parliament resigned in October after the Al Jazeera network secretly filmed him offering to assist a person with a criminal record obtain a passport. Those filmed said their comments were taken out of context.

Anastasiades, who came to power in 2013, said perceptions of widespread corruption were overblown, and politically motivated. He said his administration was aware of shortcomings in the passport scheme, which led to rules being tightened several times.

People will believe falsehoods repeated often enough, he said.

“Some, with no shame, allege the investment scheme was adopted because of the law office which bears my name, or members of my family,” he said of a law practice that has handled citizenship applications and that his daughters run with partners.

The Nicos Chr. Anastasiades and Partners firm is one of dozens of legal practices that offered services to individuals seeking passports.

Several news outlets, including Reuters, have carried reports of the scheme where foreign investors with deep pockets, and some with questionable backgrounds, leapfrogged over normally complex citizenship processes. (Reuters)

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