More dodgy passports revoked

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The government has decided to revoke another seven golden passports handed out to foreign investors as the Anastasiades administration comes under fire over its connection to suspicious cases.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said the passports were granted to four suspect investors and three of their family members.

He explained that the Cabinet’s decision is based on the findings of the Investigative Committee, the sanctions imposed by the EU and the current legislative framework.

The news of the latest addition to the list of passports to be revoked pushes their number close to 50, as ministers and President Nicos Anastasiades are targeted over their alleged connection to investors obtaining a Cyprus passport.

The Audit Office will send its findings to the state’s anti-corruption agency.

In comments to state radio CyBC, Audit Office spokesperson Marios Petrides said that conflict of interest issues had been raised against Attorney General George Savvides and Assistant Attorney General Savvas Angelides.

He said the issues of conflict arise as they have served as justice and defence ministers, respectively and conducted a public inquiry into cases of dubious investors given citizenship during their tenure in the government.

Both officials were appointed to their current positions in late June 2020 by President Anastasiades.

Opposition AKEL MP Christos Christofides told Thursday’s House Watchdog Committee some ministers serving under Anastasiades had been involved in cases of foreign investors obtaining citizenship.

Christofides told the committee that five law firms handling cases of foreign investors have some connection with current or former members of the Cabinet and President Anastasiades.

He said that the President’s former law firm Nicos Chr. Anastasiades and partners submitted 57 applications, and the law firm Koushos, Korfiotis Papacharalambous LLP, of which Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos was a partner, submitted seven applications.

And the law firm Harneys (Aristodemou, Loizidis, Yiolitis LLP) submitted seven applications. The opposition MP said the specific office is connected to former Minister of Justice Emily Yiolitis.

He claimed that Andreas Dimitriades and Partners LLP, which belongs to the brother of former minister Marios Dimitriades submitted 272 applications.

Revoking passports from foreign investors is proving tough, as procedures are time-consuming and complex, which is why most cases are currently pending in the courts.

One of the cases in Cyprus courts is that of Malaysian fugitive financier and Cyprus passport holder Jho Low.

Low had obtained a Cypriot passport as part of the investment program, even though he was wanted for financial crimes in his homeland Malaysia.

He was accused of misappropriating funds from Malaysian sovereign fund 1MDB and of having laundered its assets through financial institutions in the United States, Switzerland, Singapore, and Luxembourg.

The 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal describes a corruption, bribery and money laundering conspiracy in which the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB was systematically embezzled, with $4.5 bln assets diverted globally by the scheme’s perpetrators.