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CBC: we had no involvement in passports scheme

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Central Bank Governor Constantinos Herodotou (Photo: Christos Theodorides)

The central bank of Cyprus (CBC) had no involvement in the citizenship by investment programme, but it intended to fine the bank that handled the case of Malaysian businessman wanted by the country’s authorities Jho Low, its governor said on Wednesday.

Testifying before an inquiry, Constantinos Herodotou said the CBC was not involved in the scheme, which Cyprus was forced to terminate in November following a succession of damning reports.

Herodotou said the CBC had not been granted any authority or role and “its views on applications submitted by foreign nationals or on their behalf had never been sought.”

“Nor did the CBC participate in planning the scheme,” he said.

Concerning Low who was granted Cypriot citizenship despite wanted by Malaysia in connection with the theft of billions from a state fund, Herodotou said he had ordered a probe as soon as the story broke late in 2019 but because of the ensuing pandemic there has been a delay.

“The final decision will be issued these days, which is the fine” to the bank, Herodotou said.

Despite being flagged as high-risk, local mediators filed an application and in June 2015, Low transferred close to €6m into an account in Bank of Cyprus.

Low reportedly bought a seaside mansion in Ayia Napa for €5m and was granted citizenship in a couple of days. He had also donated around €310,000 to Archbishop Chrysostomos who put in a good word with the interior ministry.

Bank sources said at the time that they got suspicious after the fact and reported Low to the anti-money laundering unit Mokas.

The bank also closed Low’s accounts.

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