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Koushos accuses audit chief of using his position to electioneer for Diko

Government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos

The auditor-general needs to realise that Cyprus is governed by a legally elected president, government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos said on Saturday after the audit office doubled down on its probe into the naturalisation of foreign investors related to the Ayia Napa marina, saying they were approved illegally.

“The audit office should realise that it does not fall within its remit to provide legal advice or legal interpretation of decisions, actions or texts,” Koushos said and accused the audit chief of electioneering for specific political parties.

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides has said he was “exercising the power given to him by Article 116 of the Constitution to control public revenues” and would further investigate the naturalisation of 221 foreign investors, approved after last August when stricter regulations were passed by parliament. He said the cabinet approved five applications linked with the Ayia Napa marina, “illegally without applying the stricter regulations passed by parliament. The (service) provider in these citizenships was the Nicos Anastasiades law firm.

However, Koushos defended the decision, saying the €300 million investment in Ayia Napa marina was “for the benefit of the country’s economy, workers and businesses,” and took place when the economy was facing “a thousand million problems”.

“The government took decisions as it should and as it is entitled by the Constitution, for the interest and the general good of the country,” the government spokesman added, saying that the government was accountable to the people for its political decisions.

Some 800 new jobs had been created for the construction phase of the marina while around 500 people would be employed in the operation and management of it, he said.

The project is located between the beaches of Ayia Thekla and Makronisos and includes the construction of 220 luxury apartments in two towers, 35 luxury villas, a marina with docking capacity and integrated services for 600 vessels, a boatyard, shops and restaurants.

In a caustic remark, Koushos invited the audit office to participate the upcoming elections instead of using the position of an independent state service to benefit the pre-election campaign needs of specific individuals and political parties.

“The auditor-general continues to be used as a tool by [Diko leader] Nicolas Papadopoulos, to the point that one wonders whether the reports serve the country or the pre-election [campaign] of Diko,” ruling party Disy said in a statement later on Saturday.

In response, Diko’s leader said: “It is clear that the Anastasiades government continued to issue golden passports even after the parliament voted on relevant regulations”. Papadopoulos questioned Disy’s silence regarding the “provocative illegality” since the party also voted for the implementation of the stricter naturalisation criteria.

The government terminated the citizenship by investment programme in November 2020, with the interior ministry saying there were 1,513 pending applications.

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