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More than half citizenships given through investment unlawful, inquiry concludes (updated)

nikolatos

More than half of about 3,000 citizenships granted by the state between 2007 and August 2020 as part of the island’s citizenship by investment programme were unlawful, the head of an inquiry said on Friday.

Former supreme court judge and inquiry president Myron Nikolatos delivered the interim findings report of a probe into the controversial programme, launched in August last year following a series of damning media reports.

Nikolatos said the 515-page report – plus 3,500 pages of appendices – had probed 2,478 cases between 2007 and 2020 as well as 417 others considered high-risk.

Nikolatos said 51.81 per cent of the cases examined had been unlawfully granted while others had shortcomings.

The report noted potential criminal and disciplinary responsibilities but also recommends the withdrawal of citizenships in several dozen cases.

Attorney-general Giorgos Savvides said the report will be studied before a redacted version is made public.

Savvides said authorities will remove personal data and other information to protect a potential investigation.

“Our aim should not be for any criminal cases to be tried before popular courts,” Savvides said. “Public interest dictates the protection of the investigation and protection of information.”

The four-member panel is expected to hand in its final report early in June.

The probe was launched in September last year following a series of media reports suggesting Cyprus was granting citizenships to dubious individuals.

Despite launching the probe, the government had strongly defended the programme until that time, saying it benefited the economy.

A month later however, Al Jazeera published an undercover video which showed former House president Demetris Syllouris and Akel MP Christakis Giovanis offering to help a fictitious Chinese businessman with a criminal record secure citizenship.

Well known Famagusta lawyer Andreas Pittadjis was also featured in the video.

The video was a follow up of an earlier Al Jazeera report, which listed a number of dubious individuals who had been granted citizenship.

Syllouris and Giovanis resigned, as the government was forced to terminate the programme. The EU said it was launching legal procedures against Cyprus in relation to the programme.

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