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AG files first criminal case in passport scandal

The state Legal Service said on Friday it has filed the first case relating to Cyprus’ controversial citizenship by investment programme to at Larnaca district court.

The case involves five individuals and four companies who face 37 charges.

It is based on the findings of an ad hoc three-member panel headed by Securities and Exchange Commission chief Demetra Kalogerou.

Kalogerou had probed 12 files involving 42 citizenships granted between 2012 and 2018.

In a written statement, the Legal Service said additional cases relating to the Kalogerou report were under investigation with some expected to be referred to the attorney-general for instructions soon.

Based on the findings, in September last year, the Legal Service said it had instructed police to launch investigations into possible criminal offences in connection with the discovery that seven individuals had secured Cypriot citizenship under false pretences or by withholding important information.

Kalogerou had been appointed in November 2019 to look into certain citizenships granted from 2012 to 2018. The panel examined 12 files involving 42 individuals considered “high risk.”

Four of the files concerned seven persons who had withheld vital information on their applications.

In August last year, Al Jazeera aired a report on Cyprus’ citizenship by investment programme, based on an investigation of “more than 1,400 leaked documents”.

It dubbed the applications for citizenship, which it claimed contained the names of 2,544 people, the ‘Cyprus Papers’.

The broadcaster said Cyprus had been granting citizenships to dubious individuals, a claim that was fiercely rejected by the government, which nevertheless launched a full-scale probe into the programme, going back to 2008.

But even before the probe had time to start, Al Jazeera aired an undercover video showing former House president Demetris Syllouris and former Akel MP Christakis Giovanis offering to help a fictitious Chinese businessman with a criminal record secure citizenship.

The pair were forced to resign, as the government hastily terminated the programme.

The four-member panel looking into the programme issued a damning interim report recently, which said close to 52 per cent of the citizenships had been unlawful.

The interim report was handed to police on Friday with instructions to launch investigations according to the findings.

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