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Passports probe delayed by hiring wrangle

Cyprus Citizenship By Investment Program Review

A drive to recruit the services of 40 professionals to assist the probe into the citizenship by investment programme has been cancelled some 13 days after it was announced, over legal issues.

The recruitment was announced by the independent panel tasked with investigating potential wrongdoings in the programme on October 21.

Headed by former supreme court president Myron Nikolatos, the committee was looking to hire the services of 40 lawyers, accountants and economists for six weeks at a cost of €182,000 plus VAT with the possibility of extension for an additional three weeks.

However, on Monday, interested parties received notice that the hiring process had been cancelled.

It is understood that the process was cancelled after the auditor-general spotted a legal issue relating to the panel’s authority to recruit staff.

The hiring process was renewed on Tuesday by the attorney-general, who had appointed the panel in the first place.

This time however, it is seeking to hire 24 people at a cost of €80,000 excluding VAT. The deadline for applications is November 11.

The fresh delay is expected to force the committee to miss its three-month deadline for completing its task.

It was appointed in September following a report by Al Jazeera, which used leaked documents, that Cyprus was granting citizenships to dubious individuals.

In the meantime, the government decided to terminate the programme from November 1 after Al Jazeera published a damning undercover video showing House president Demetris Syllouris and Akel MP Christakis Giovanis offering assistance to a fictitious Chinese businessman with a criminal record to secure citizenship.

The three other members of the investigative committee are the head of the securities and exchange commission Demetra Kalogirou – she replaced former supreme court judge Costas Pampallis who resigned for personal reasons — deputy auditor-general Kyriacos Kyriacou, and financial ombudsman Pavlos Ioannou.

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