Hundreds rally in Cyprus after Pandora Papers slur

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Hundreds of protestors rallied in Cyprus on Saturday against corruption scandals swirling around the government after the president was mentioned in the Pandora Papers.

Around 2000 gathered in an anti-government demonstration in the capital Nicosia organised by the main opposition party communists AKEL.

Protesters called on the “corrupt” government led by President Nicos Anastasiades to resign.

AKEL leader Stefanos Stefanou told the rally, “enough is enough”.

He said Cyprus had become a “laughing stock” compounded by the Pandora Papers revelations – a massive leak of documents revealing how the rich and powerful use offshore companies to hide their wealth.

“For years, clouds have been gathering, until today’s storm broke out… the Pandora Papers is the last drop that spilt the glass,” said Stefanou.

A law firm founded by President Anastasiades has been named in the so-called Pandora Papers.

According to the investigation, the “law firm appears as a key offshore go-between for wealthy Russians.”

The Cypriot law firm allegedly helped a Russian billionaire and former senator, Leonid Lebedev, conceal ownership of four companies by listing law firm employees as owners of Lebedev’s entities.

Lebedev fled his home country in 2015 after being accused of failing to declare his assets.

Anastasiades, twice elected president since 2013, has denied any wrongdoing and said he welcomed any probe into his finances.

He said he took no active role in its law firm’s affairs after becoming leader of conservatives DISY in 1997.

Anastasiades is among 35 current, and former leaders and more than 300 public officials featured in the Pandora Papers.

This includes leaders such as the King of Jordan, who allegedly secretly amassed £70m of UK and US property, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is linked to secret assets in Monaco.

“The President welcomes an investigation, which will once again categorically refute those who use mud as a means of political survival,” said a statement by government spokesperson Marios Pelekanos in response to Saturday’s rally.

He said AKEL was creating a “toxic climate with distortions and slanderous allegations”.

Last year, Cyprus scrapped its lucrative passports for foreign investment scheme amid corruption allegations and pressure from Brussels.

A damning public inquiry said that over half (53%) of the 6,779 passports granted were done so illegally, encouraged by a due diligence vacuum or insufficient background checks.