All Cyprus passports to investors to be probed

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Cyprus Attorney-General George Savvides appointed a four-member investigating committee on Monday to look into all citizenships granted to foreign investors since 2007 when the maligned scheme was launched.

Savvides appointed the former president of the Supreme Court Myron Nicolatos as head of the committee with former top judge Costas Pambalis, deputy auditor-general Kyriacos Kyriacou and financial ombudsman Pavlos Ioannou.

The committee has been commissioned to investigate whether all laws, criteria and conditions in force at the time had been applied when passports were granted between 2007 and August 17, 2020.

According to its mandate, the committee will have to complete its probe within three months though it can ask for an extension if necessary.

The spotlight fell on the ‘golden passports’ scheme as a series of unflattering articles and videos were published by global media outlet Al Jazeera last month which essentially portrayed Cyprus as selling passports to criminals for cash.

The expose was based on the leak of over 1,400 documents related to the investment scheme, obtained by Al Jazeera, which in photos, appear to bear the seal of the Cyprus Parliament.

In an earlier response, the Cyprus government refuted Al Jazeera’s claims as propaganda, with Interior Minister Nicos Nouris arguing they only served to damage the island’s economy and reputation through “deception” and “false information”.

The government had accused the Qatar-based broadcaster of engaging in propaganda and seeking to smear the island’s reputation, citing its political ties with Turkey.

Police have also launched an investigation into the source of the leak, which some suggested was a politician.

However, when police officers sought certain documents from parliament, House officials refused to hand them over citing the legislature’s immunity.

MPs had asked for the legal opinion of three lawyers on the matter. Similarly, the Interior Ministry has refused to hand over certain files to the auditor general.

Τhe office of the Auditor General, Odysseas Michaelides has also launched a probe into the programme, to determine whether the state lost money in the form of taxes or other fees. He requested files regarding a number of foreign investors from the Interior Ministry.

The ministry has asked for the Attorney General’s opinion on the matter.

The fate of the Auditor General’s probe is unclear after the launch of the committee which includes a representative from Michaelides’ office.

Cyprus will now re-examine the cases of all roughly 4,000 people who successfully applied for a Cypriot passport under the investment scheme since 2007.

The scheme was upgraded in 2013, generating around €7 bln to the economy.