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President’s law firm was investigated and cleared by bar association, probe hears

06 (2)
Bar Association chairman Christos Clerides

The president’s former law firm was among those probed by the Bar association in the past without finding anything improper, its chairman Christos Clerides told an inquiry into the controversial citizenship by investment programme on Thursday.

Clerides said the association’s investigations did not do anyone any favours.

“Our aim is to be strict wherever wrongdoings are established,” he said.

Clerides said between 2013 and 2019 the Bar association had carried out 600 checks and fined eight law firms for law violations.

The law affords the association the authority to impose fines of up to one million euros. Two of those firms were currently under investigation in connection with the investment programme.

Clerides said no sanctions have been imposed so far in relation with the passports as such, but penalties were handed down over issues connected with property sales documents relating to the programme.

The panel heard that Anastasiades’ former law firm had been included in a probe after claims in the past concerning certain clients, but no wrongdoing was detected.

Until August 2020, when the law was amended to include passport applications in the list of administrative services provided by law firms, the matter was regulated on the basis of the general principles of money laundering legislation.

“However, now we have focused on naturalisation matters,” he said.

Clerides said that when he took over last year, he found that in 2019 the Bar association had inspected seven law offices.

He said those cases remained open and the board had yet to take its final decisions.

Clerides said a law firm implicated by a damning undercover Al Jazeera video into citizenships has been referred to the association’s disciplinary board.

The head of the Bar association said about 200 law firms were involved with the citizenships; out of those, 10 had processed over 50 applications, 25 processed between 10 and 50, and 140 were involved in under 10.

The number of law firms providing administrative services is 1,300 while the Bar association has 4,213 registered members.

Clerides said the association was currently looking into 12 law firms involved with the investment programme.

In a break with past practices, Clerides said a decision has been made to publish the names and penalties imposed to firms by the disciplinary board.

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