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Former AG enters citizenship fray

Cyprus Citizenship By Investment Program Review

Former attorney-general Costas Clerides entered the ongoing fray between the government and the opposition over the citizenship probe, suggesting a compromise solution in a bid to prevent further political and potentially financial effects.

The government has been at loggerheads with the opposition over its demand for the auditor-general to be granted access to the files of the citizenship by investment programme.

Citing the attorney-general, the government has refused to hand over the files, prompting Diko to threaten to vote against the state budget. Potential rejection of the budget could have dire effects, especially on the health sector amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Offering the two sides a way out, Clerides proposed the auditor-general, with whom he cooperated closely during his tenure as AG, be given access to the files it wants in consultation with the committee appointed by the attorney-general to investigate the programme to ensure it would not be affecting its work.

“The audit service must pledge in public that it will not draft an interim or final report on any of the cases until the investigating committee completes its task and issues its report,” Clerides said.

If the committee published an interim report on any of the cases, then the audit service can also publish its own findings on the same cases, the former attorney-general said.

Publication of interim or final reports by either party must be done with extra caution so that the attorney-general would have the final say on potential offences and the data would not affect potential legal procedures or the rights of those involved, Clerides added.

Attorney-general Giorgos Savvides ruled against handing over any documents or even copies to the audit service because “it would constitute an intervention” into the work of the committee.

“In addition, carrying out parallel procedures not only endangers the findings of the probes but also negatively affects the rights of the individuals potentially implicated, resulting in them using this fact to their favour in future procedures,” Savvides had said.

The former attorney-general said Savvides’ legal opinion did not dispute the audit service’s constitutional authority to investigate the matter, but it raised objections aiming at protecting the ongoing investigation.

Clerides said the authority to decide on the matter was the supreme court but it did not appear that any side would head into that direction and it was not even clear that such a procedure would resolve the issue without direct dispute or conflict of power or competence and given the existence of a strictly enforceable deadline of 30 days from the first day the difference arose.

Both Diko and the audit service said they agreed with the proposal.

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