President wants probe into passport scheme

2 mins read

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said he will ask the Attorney-General to appoint an investigating committee to conduct a probe into the citizenship by investment programme following damning allegations.

In a written statement on Wednesday, Anastasiades expressed regret over the turn of events as a result of recent reports by Al Jazeera that Cyprus had granted citizenships to a number of suspect foreign investors through its CIS program.

A week-long series of Al Jazeera’s reports, dubbed Cyprus Papers, portraying the Mediterranean island as selling passports to criminals for cash, has rekindled a war of words between the government and the Opposition.

In the statement, the presidency said Anastasiades will ask the competent Minister to request the attorney-general, on Thursday, appoint a three-member panel to investigate the programme’s operation, between 2007 and July 31, 2020, when parliament approved the latest changes to its legal framework.

“The decision does not affect the Auditor General’s powers, granted by the constitution, to carry out an audit of the tax department to determine whether the investments had been handled properly,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, a row erupted between the Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides’ office and the Interior Ministry, after the latter refused to hand over additional information sought by the audit office as part of an investigation into the citizenship by investment program, following Al Jazeera’s claims.

In a statement, the Audit Office said that auditors had collected five files relating to recent claims by Al Jazeera that Cyprus had granted citizenships to dubious investors, but sought 15 more files, which the ministry refused to handover.

The Interior Ministry said it would provide no more information pending the opinion sought from the Attorney-General on the matter.

The ministry cited personal data legislation governing such information being released.

Following the ministry’s response, the Audit Office warned that if the government’s refusal were based on the legal opinion of the Attorney General then it would take the case before the Supreme Court.