26 law firms audited in golden passport probe

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A total of 26 Cypriot law firms have been audited by the Cyprus Bar Association in connection with the disgraced golden passport scheme, with five found guilty and slapped with non-compliance fines of €200,000.

According to data released by the President of the Cyprus Bar Association, Christos Clerides, four more law firms have been charged while the Association is looking into possible money laundering.

As Clerides said, a file has been prepared for five law firms, which is currently under study by the anti-money laundering committee of the Association.

Another law firm is involved in a case under review by Cyprus Attorney General George Savvides.

Another eight cases involving a golden passport were closed as no evidence of violation was found.

Clerides also said the Association has collected over €200,000 in fines for non-compliance.

Authorities have launched procedures to revoke hundreds of passports granted through the country’s now-defunct Citizenship by Investment Program.

Cyprus gave passports to more than 7,000 people under a citizenship scheme to individuals investing a minimum €2 mln.

It was popular with Russian and Asian investors.

Meanwhile, the Bar Association said there is an increase in the number of complaints filed against lawyers for disciplinary misconduct.

The Association’s Disciplinary Council reviewed 165 complaints in 2022 – a record number since 2009.

Data also shows that 1,785 complaints were filed between 2009 and February 2023.

The current disciplinary body of the Bar Association has looked into 957 out of 1,785 complaints.

Some 181 complaints were withdrawn by the complainant, 442 were dismissed at the preliminary stage, while in 15, one of the two parties died.

In 20 cases, the accused was acquitted, 258 are ongoing, while another 17 were referred to another body.

Some 24 penalties were handed down. In 12 cases, a fine was imposed; in two cases, a reprimand; in four cases, the deprivation of a license to practice the profession; in six cases, it triggered being struck off by the Bar Association.