Nobody appears to have seen much wrong with the fact that the Nicos Chr. Anastasiades law firm is among the providers of the citizenship-for-investment scheme. The name is on a list of the main providers of this service requested by the legislature, and it includes the four big auditing firms as well as the Tassos Papadopoulos and Co law office.
Is it excessive to suggest there is a conflict of interest? Here is a state policy, from which the president’s law firm – even if, as he maintains, he has nothing to do with it – benefits financially. The main partners in the law firm are the president’s daughters, so nobody can deny that his family is benefiting from the citizenship-for-investment scheme. What makes matters worse is that one of his sons-in-law has a business that finds investments – mainly real estate – for citizenship applicants.
Considering the scheme is a very lucrative business, estimated to have generated more than €3 billion since its introduction, it would be no exaggeration to say that the president’s family has made millions from it. And the law firm has a big advantage over its competitors. A foreigner seeking citizenship would be inclined to go to the firm of the president’s family on the assumption it is the best-connected of the providers. Even if this were not the case, a foreigner would be inclined to believe his or her application would encounter no difficulties if it is handled by the law firm with direct access to the head of state.
Even if everything is done according to the book and the law firm does not use Anastasiades’ position to attract clientele, the link does not reflect well on the president or the Republic. The scheme was supposed to have been a short-term measure to attract foreign investment during the recession, but now we are out of the recession and back on the growth path, someone could ask why it was still in place? One could claim that it was kept because it served the financial interests of the Anastasiades family law firm, even if there were other, more convincing reasons, such as maintaining the pre-bail-in economic model that benefits developers, law and auditing firms.
After their swearing in on Thursday, the members of the Anastasiades cabinet were asked to sign a code of ethics. One of the paragraphs stipulated that ministers had a duty, ‘not only to act with absolute impartiality, but also to ensure against any suspicion of personal interest’. It would be interesting to know if the president also signed the code of ethics.