Cyprus believes the “pro-Turkish” Qatari regime is behind Al Jazeera’s onslaught of its Citizenship for Investment scheme claiming the island sold EU passports to criminals for cash.
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris held a news conference Wednesday to accuse Qatari Media Outlet Al Jazeera of deliberately throwing mud at the country to damage Cyprus politically and economically.
Al Jazeera on Sunday launched a series of unflattering reports about the programme based on an investigation of more than 1,400 leaked documents it had obtained through unspecified channels.
The global media outlet dubbed its expose the ‘Cyprus Papers’.
“Al Jazeera is based in a country known for its pro-Turkish positions,” Nouris said.
He the damning publications come “at a time when Cyprus is under threat and is waging a major political battle against Turkey’s expansionist tendencies”.
He dismissed Al Jazeera’s reports as “propaganda” rather than journalism and wondered why Cyprus was the only country being singled out.
“Investigative journalism is one thing, which we respect, but this is something completely different. It is propaganda that deliberately aims to hurt the country politically and economically.
“For the last 24 hours, we have witnessed an orchestrated effort by the Al Jazeera network, which, after succeeding in securing secret documents of the Republic of Cyprus, is attacking our country through distortion, deception and creating false impressions.”
Nouris argued that Al Jazeera in its attempt to take a swing at Cyprus has employed “distorted and misleading information,” adding that authorities have checked the 117 names of investors published in the stories.
“All of the people in question, for whom we will avoid naming for obvious reasons, at the time of submission of their applications met the criteria and were holders of a clean criminal record in their countries of origin and countries of residence.”
Nouris said, during the examination of their applications, no evidence was found, against those now brandished as criminals, by the audits of the competent state security services or Interpol.
He said the series of reports constitute “a deliberate attempt by Al Jazeera to falsify data and information”.
Nouris said the network failed to mention that some offences “occurred much later than their naturalisation and therefore could not be taken into account when authorities were examining their applications”.
The government is also looking into how 1,400 official documents were leaked.
“The idea of such a massive leak of classified government documents is worrying…unfortunately we see that the documents published by Al Jazeera bear the seal of the Cypriot Parliament”.
The Interior Minister addressed criticism fired from the opposition parties, arguing that they “rush to harshly criticise the government, just to gain political points”.
He argued that these reports have damaged the reputation of a scheme that has contributed significantly to the economic recovery during the difficult bail-out period following the 2013 financial crisis.
“Parties should stop hiding behind their finger…either ask honestly and clearly for the termination of the program…or strengthen the collective effort to protect the prestige of the Republic of Cyprus against the war that has been waged against it”.