Archbishop Chrysostomos said Tuesday he was prepared to return €310,000 he received from a now wanted Malaysian businessman who secured Cypriot citizenship through the island’s investment programme if it was proven the money was dirty.
Chrysostomos, who had written to then interior minister Socratis Hasicos on behalf of Jho Taek Low – now a fugitive for financial crimes – has been heavily criticised over his involvement, despite claiming the money represented donations to Church and everything was above board.
In a written statement on Tuesday, the archbishop said they had accepted the two cheques for €300,000 and €10,000 because they had assumed the money was clean, coming from a bank.
“We knew that for someone to receive Cypriot citizenship they first apply to all relevant departments of the Republic of Cyprus and after being checked by the police, the central bank, and Interpol, they are granted the Cypriot citizenship,” the statement said.
At the time the application was filed, there was nothing to prevent its approval, it added.
“Having this and only this in mind, we appealed to the minister in writing to facilitate the issuance of a passport to the investor in question.”
Five years later, he said, he was informed that the exact opposite applied.
“That is why we unequivocally state that when the government rejects, cancels, and rescinds the particular investor’s Cypriot citizenship … which means that the €310,000 donation to the Archbishopric is the product of theft or dirty money, then this money does not belong to us and we are prepared to return it,” Chrysostomos said.
The case proved a major embarrassment for the archbishop and the government, which was forced to review the scheme and withdraw 26 citizenships, including Low’s and those to persons tied to Cambodia’s authoritarian government.
Meanwhile people have called on the attorney-general to launch a criminal probe against the archbishop while teachers plan to march against corruption on Wednesday, when schools will be closed to mark Chrysostomos’ name day