Even Pinnochio couldn’t fix this

2 mins read

Like the wave of incompetence that swept across our passports-for-cash scheme, nobody believed they would get caught playing fast and loose with the rules.

There were rumblings from far-off Europe about giving away EU passports to dodgy types, fugitives who ripped off governments and authoritarian rulers who stole from everybody else.

When the sound of money drowns out the voice of reason, no one pays attention to the detail or checks for due diligence.

As usual, the hard questions weren’t being asked; there was no proper scrutiny or willingness to ensure no millionaire crooks squeezed through the cracks.

They weren’t exactly hairline fractures but huge gaping holes in a system where low-level corruption is common, tolerated and often ignored.

Politicians abused the system’s failing for so long – happy that no Cypriot journalist in their right mind would shine a light on their shady deals.

But suspicion was growing in Europe that Cyprus was quietly enjoying providing its laundromat services to wealthy tax evaders.

Hefty reports were written suggesting the financial system stank of corrupt practices.

And as Cypriots tend to do, the recommendations were dismissed as the rantings of foreigners and the passport for investment scheme thrived.

It flourished in a vacuum of regulatory supervision that it took investigative reporters from Qatar to catch our politicians in a lie.


Those caught trying to accommodate a wealthy Chinese criminal were done career-wise; whether the justice system sends them to prison is debatable.

No, getting away from it, the golden passport revelations were an embarrassment and essentially paved the way for Cyprus to be placed in the crosshairs for US and UK sanctions.

Cypriot fixers for pro-Kremlin Russian oligarchs to bypass sanctions on Moscow because of its Ukraine aggression have been placed on the naughty list.

Nicosia has had to eat humble pie after making such an effort to be invited to sit at the table where the Americans check your laundry before being allowed a seat.

The government has had to sound cooperative and determined to eradicate sanction busters, knowing some on the US and UK lists acquired Cyprus passports by flashing the cash, no questions asked.

No sooner had the authorities manoeuvred around the passports debacle and sanctions shock than there were more serious allegations of match-fixing in Cyprus football.

Domestic football is no stranger to bribery allegations surrounding the island’s most popular sport (football, not corruption) that single bets on Cypriot games are prohibited.


Like the disgraced passport scheme, there is no appetite to delve deep into how football is run in this country, the finances involved, foreign ownership and stamping out rigged games.

Judging from past behaviours, we can have little confidence in the authorities to eradicate match-fixing or show the courage to appropriately punish teams for their folly.

With so much money to be made from Asian betting syndicates, the temptation will always be there for players, not on vast salaries.

Besides, the football authorities seem to lack urgency in tackling corruption with any steely-eyed determination but shunt it to one side.

The Cyprus Football Association has vehemently denied it is involved in any cover-up or tried to hoodwink the European governing body UEFA.

At the very least, Cypriot football has a reputational stain to go along with rampant hooliganism that keeps families away.

More troubling are accusations that Nicos Anastasiades, when president, intervened to dissuade officials from probing a suspect scoreline in a friendly game.

He has also denied any wrongdoing and blamed the accusers for having a ‘hidden agenda’.

It won’t be long before continued rumblings of match-fixing attract more serious investigators to these shores to uncover truths we would rather bury.

Football has been badly served in this country, although this should come as no surprise as it reflects a society that hides the truth rather than let it shine.

We have become a nation that doesn’t like to look in the mirror for fear of what we might see.

At the moment, it’s looking ugly, and that comes with years of neglect.

If officials in public office are not made accountable or available for scrutiny, then Pinnochios’ nose would never stop growing with the lies we tell ourselves.