House President Demetris Syllouris said on Monday he wrote a letter to President Nicos Anastasiades suggesting a meeting of party leaders to discuss either suspending, ending, or further improving the citizenship by investment programme.
Syllouris said his initiative aimed to dispel any doubt about the programme.
“If there are any doubts, there should be no programme,” he said.
The House president comments came in the wake of a report last week by Al Jazeera claiming Cyprus had granted citizenships to dubious individuals citing classified state documents. The government said the broadcaster was deliberately trying to tarnish Cyprus, while a probe has been ordered to determine the source of the leak.
Syllouris said he placed himself at the president’s disposal to facilitate any investigation.
“In relation to the programme, I suggest that by utilising the new regulations, as passed on 31 July 2020, and the existing legislation, the investigation for possible revocation of nationalities be accelerated, where possible and required,” the letter said.
He also suggested to the president that he call a meeting of party leaders for a discussion on whether the programme should be continued or terminated.
“If the decision is not to end it, then the parties’ suggestions for improving the programme will be heard at the meeting,” he added.
In case of non-termination, Syllouris suggests “there should be a suspension of the programme, until it is further improved, based on the concerns and recommendations of the leaders’ meeting”.
If it is decided to continue the programme which has offered a lot to the economy, possibly with corrective moves and improvements, then he proposed planning and undertaking a public relations initiative to deal with any, good or bad faith, critics of the programme.
Syllouris said there was a lot of confusion over what transparency meant, what controls meant, and what a leak for personal gain meant, especially when it is a leak of confidential state documents to third countries.
“What I am suggesting is to decide whether we want a programme or not. All parties should make their position clear and discuss what kind of investment programme we want.”
Syllouris said in the event of a suspension, Cyprus should not accept new applications for one or two months.
Ruling Disy leader Averof Neophytou conceded that the programme had shortcomings initially but those had now been corrected.
He suggested the leak came from parliament, judging from the stamps and notes on the documents.
They had been given to eight party leaders and 10 members of the interior affairs committee, he said.
“A total of, maximum, 18 people. I am one the potential suspects. But the possible ones do not exceed 18.”
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Neophytou said the programme “certainly” helped the economy but he admitted that it also created problems for the country’s credibility.
“Of course there were shortcomings,” he said, answering his own question. “That is why our government, together with the parties, improved the programme, and I believe that after the decisions taken by the government in 2019, the contribution of three independent international firms, but also the recent changes in the legal framework and the regulatory framework, the holes, weaknesses and gaps in the investment programme were plugged.”
Of the cases where it was clear that some applicants had given false information or where mistakes were made due to the shortcomings of the original system, the passports should be revoked, Neophytou said.
“Someone who acquires anything, be it a passport or property, under false pretences, had no right to what they acquired because it stemmed from an illegal and improper presentation of information.”