Cyprus Mail

MPs give government until Dec 9 to furnish data on passports linked to casino

Lawmakers on Thursday gave the interior ministry until December 9 to furnish data relating to 18 individuals naturalised under the controversial citizenship-by-investment (CBI) scheme, scrapped last month.

The House watchdog committee is looking into a report published last week by Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides. His dossier noted that 18 passports granted to people linked to the casino resort, did not meet the naturalisation criteria under the CBI and were therefore tainted.

It’s understood that, in addition to the 18 directly linked to the casino, nine of their relatives also received Cypriot passports.

The Audit Office contends the granting of these passports is highly irregular, because the licence for the casino investment constituted a public contract awarded by the state to a private concern. As such, it does not see why any citizenships should have been granted.

Moreover, the auditor-general’s report suggested potential malfeasance on the part of officials involved in the process of granting the citizenships.

On the back of that, MPs have requested additional information on these cases from the interior ministry, which handles naturalisations.

For releasing the report the auditor-general received flak from the attorney-general, who had previously warned Michaelides against disclosing any material as the passports are the subject of an ongoing committee of inquiry.

The government piled on, haranguing Michaelides for overstepping the bounds of his remit, and also hinting at possible legal action against the auditor-general.

The kerfuffle began when earlier the interior ministry declined a request by the Audit Office for information on certain naturalisations. That decision was based on a legal opinion furnished by the attorney-general. Whereas the attorney-general did not bar the Audit Office from access to government records, he said it was a question of timing – namely that the data could be withheld until the committee of inquiry completes its work.

In a display of solidarity with their boss, the staff at the Audit Office on Thursday released a statement that they are operating within the bounds of the law.

The staff said that, under international guidelines and norms, audit services are entitled to access – without restrictions – to information.

Audit services also have the discretion and leeway to decide the content of their reports, as well as the time of their publication, the statement read.

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