The web of lies purveyed by the Al Jazeera network in its attempt to smear Cyprus has been disentangled. We saw yesterday the claims made by the head of the ‘investigative unit’ were largely spurious.
Today, research released by the Nicosia-based economist Fiona Mullen of Sapientia Economics shows that the claims made in Al Jazeera’s ‘investigation’ of the Cypriot Investment Programme are also almost entirely false.
Here are the claims: “Citizenship of a small EU nation has become a commodity for the global super-rich. Out of some 2,500 names (these include the names of spouses and children in the 1,471 documents) in The Cyprus Papers, we have created 100 profiles you can look at below. They include convicted criminals, oligarchs on the run from the law, and government officials. We have only published the names of individuals when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing or if the person was a politically-exposed person (PEP) at the time they obtained citizenship.”
It’s worth recalling, at the start, what a “politically-exposed person” is: “A politically exposed person (PEP) is defined by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as an individual who is, or has been entrusted with a prominent public function.” There is no suggestion that being a PEP implies criminality.
Mullen’s research reviews the 100 profiles published by Al Jazeera. Her conclusions:
“If you look at the number of actual prison sentences, individuals sanctioned by US/EU (2) and those subject to tainted or questionable justice – admittedly through a Western lens — it isn’t nearly as bad as expected.
Including PEPs, (banned by Cyprus in mid-2019, but not before), there are 42 PEPS of which only 7 also fell under some of the dodgy categories above.
All the rest are either simply rich, family member of rich, or not otherwise flagged as problematic.
But the so-called ‘investigation’ makes it sound as though Cyprus were deliberately allowing hundreds of criminals to obtain citizenship.
Mullen’s research shows that no individuals in the list are under EU sanctions. “There is one executive of a company that is under EU (and US) sanctions.”
Sanctions on individuals are as follows:
-Two sanctioned by US (one Chinese, one Venezuelan);
-Two Russians sanctioned by Ukraine;
-One Ukrainian sanctioned by Russia;
There are five individual sanctions in total.
Mullen notes that some of the people maligned by the Al Jazeera investigation work for companies which were placed under sanctions when Russia invaded the Crimea. There was no individual wrongdoing on their part.
These include four executives of companies under US sanctions only;
– One executive of a company under both US and EU sanctions;
– Two executives of companies under Ukrainian sanctions.
So there are six in this category.
Now let’s look at prison sentences or trials.
– One Russian had served a prison sentence;
– One Chinese individual was given a long prison sentence;
– One Russian was under house arrest on the same day he got a passport;
– 1 on trial when got passport, now in jail (Vietnamese)
This makes a total of five.
And there are three in total in the category called “Application approval coincides with investigations, legal action or sanctions against the individual.”
– 1 Russian (house arrest above)
– 1 Russian (company filed lawsuit against them 2 weeks after citizenship)
– 1 Venezuelan (same as above).
The observations made by Mullen, make a strong case to call into question the sensational claims made by Al Jazeera in its reporting.
At the same time, Mullen does feel, however, that the Cyprus government should have taken a different tack from the beginning – clearing off association with Russia and ensuring the country’s reputation was safe.
“On the one hand there is often a knee jerk reaction among journalists abroad that if it’s Russian it must be bad. On the other hand, this also means you have to work twice at hard at being seen to be clean.”
Mullen thinks the higher echelons of the Cyprus establishment have not grasped this. “When they get defensive and say this is propaganda or a foreign plot it only reinforces suspicions because it looks like they are trying to deflect scrutiny,” she insists.
The Cyprus Mail will follow up on the analysis of Mullen and others who are still at work on the leak. We will send a list of questions to Al Jazeera, inviting them to explain their actions. We look forward to publishing these replies.