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Parliament had no role in approval of citizenships, inquiry hears

passport inquiry
Socratis Socratous before the inquiry on Tuesday (Christos Theodorides)

Parliament had no role in the approval of citizenships as part of Cyprus’ controversial investment programme, its director told an inquiry on Tuesday.

Socratis Socratous said parliament staff had no instructions to study the applications that were sent by the interior ministry.

“Our understanding was that the documents were on an FYI basis and not for approval,” he told the four-member panel.

“The minister informed that the application is going to cabinet, there was no reason to dispute it.”

Socratous said the legislature’s secretariat received the information, which were then archived in a file marked confidential.

Nor was parliament informed whether an application had been approved or not.

“I never saw a letter saying an application had been rejected,” he said.

Socratous was testifying before a panel appointed by the attorney-general to investigate the citizenship by investment programme between 2007, when it started, and August 2020. The government terminated the programme in November last year following a string of damning reports.

In September, when the probe was launched, it did not appear that the government had any intention of terminating the programme, despite the bad publicity. However, in October, Al Jazeera aired an undercover video showing former House president Demetris Syllouris and former Akel MP Christakis Giovannis offering help to a fictitious Chinese businessman with a criminal record to secure citizenship.

The pair have since resigned, as the EU launched legal proceedings against Cyprus amid a public outburst against political corruption.

Socratous said Tuesday he did not know whether letters had been sent from parliament on behalf of investors seeking citizenship.

“I did not see any reference to this,” he said.

Socratous was asked about a letter between interior ministry officials discussing why the office of the House president had been asking about certain applications.

“I did not hear, did not see and do not know,” he said.

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