Cyprus Mail

Secret service officer’s role in money for passports scheme probed

Limassol police are investigating a former secret service (KYP) officer and a Lebanese national who have been remanded after two Egyptian men claimed they had paid them €171,500 to obtain Cypriot nationality, Limassol CID chief Ioannis Soteriades said on Tuesday.

Instead, all the Egyptians have are some documents which appear to be false, from the Republic of Cyprus regarding the procedure to apply for nationality.

The case has also seen the arrest of two women, aged 44 and 33, who have been released as they are cooperating with police.

The suspects are a 39-year-old Lebanese man who runs a recruitment agency and a 54-year-old Greek Cypriot who used to work for the secret service until he voluntarily left in 2014.

Speaking about the case Soteriades said the two Egyptians had sought help from the Lebanese national back in 2010 who promised them, in cooperation with the KYP officer, that they would immediately begin procedures to get Cypriot passports for the Egyptian men and their families.

Over time, they claim despite paying the Lebanese man €171,500 by 2013, when they realised there was no progress, they threatened they would report the case to police.

At that stage, the suspects presented them documents relating to the issuing of a passport, which police believe are false, and also promised they would return the money – something that has yet to be done.

Earlier this month, the two Egyptians arrived in Cyprus with their lawyers and reported the case to police.

The Lebanese man was arrested on Saturday at Larnaca airport when he was returning from a trip abroad. He was remanded for eight days the following day while at Limassol general hospital where he was taken after he said he was sick.

On Sunday, the former KYP officer was arrested and remanded for seven days.

They are suspected of conspiring to commit a crime, extortion under false pretenses, forgery, circulating forged documents and offences of money laundering.

Asked if the KYP officer may face additional charges as he was in service at the time the alleged offences were carried out, Soteriades said “this is a matter we are investigating and we are in contact with the Legal Service to examine whether more offences were carried out.”

“Police is fully investigating, it is a very serious case and the file will be completed as soon as possible to be sent to the Legal Service for study and orders.”

The two women arrested are Greek Cypriots. They are a 44-year-old secretary at the Lebanese man’s recruitment agency, who said she received orders to hide any documents relating to the specific case which she handed over to her friend, aged 33.

According to Soteriades, they cooperated with police investigators, handing over the paperwork now being used as evidence.

Police do not rule out the implication of more people.

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