President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday called on newspaper director and journalist Andreas Paraschos to substantiate a report that he made €300m from the citizenship by investment scheme and took the money to the Seychelles on private jets.

On Sunday, Kathimerini director Paraschos suggested in his column that Anastasiades chose not to solve the Cyprus problem in 2017 because he did not want to end the citizenship by investment programme, described as the goose that laid the golden egg.

He alleged that Anastasiades had confided to Greece’s prime minister at the time, Alexis Tsipras, that the programme fetched his law firm €300m a year, which he transferred to the Seychelles on private flights. Tsipras flatly rejected this claim on Thursday, saying such a conversation had never taken place.

In his first reaction since Sunday, the president said in a statement that he was seeing with regret “an orchestrated effort to smear his name either through whispers or false reports.”

After Tsipras’ denial, Anastasiades called on Paraschos to either substantiate the unfounded claims he made or admit he had been a victim of misinformation.

Anastasiades said in his 40-year presence in politics he had always respected freedom of the press and expression and had never exercised his legal rights, recognising the right of the media to criticise him.

“However, tolerance to criticism appears to have been misconstrued by some who think they provide a service to the country and the people even with malicious false publications or whispers,” the president said.

Paraschos resigned on Wednesday, after the newspaper’s publishers wrote to Anastasiades admitting it was a mistake to publish allegations without substantiation. Paraschos said the letter of apology was written without him knowing and he censured the publishers for not backing him.

The matter caused an uproar, with punters on social media mostly siding with Paraschos, as political parties entered the fray.

The journalists’ union expressed strong displeasure and concern over the issue, describing it as a case of “curtailment of press freedom and forcing a journalist to resign.” It also said: “the whole incident mostly hurts freedom of expression and free press in our country.”

Main opposition Akel sided with Paraschos, saying Cyprus needed media that scrutinised the establishment and highlighted the problems of the people.

Ruling Disy issued a statement expressing regret over the repeated but completely unfounded accusations directed at the president.

It also accused Akel of adopting the allegations, “obviously because to Akel, press freedom is linked with the unsubstantiated insults against people and institutions in violation of every notion of journalistic ethics.”