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President apologises over passport scheme failings (Updated)

President Nicos Anastasiades

President Nicos Anastasiades apologised Friday for the administration’s mistakes in managing the island’s citizenship by investment programme, which led to a political crisis that he said was the most painful in his career.

Speaking during the confirmation of the new cabinet members, Anastasiades said he would not deny his responsibility in the matter, despite an inquiry finding no proof of corruption in the actions of the cabinet and himself.

“I boldly recognise everything that concerns my administration,” he said. “That is why I will not hesitate, with honesty, to apologise and ask for the people’s forgiveness for our mistakes, which were the cause of unprecedented political tension that in most cases exceeded the limits of political civility.”

Anastasiades noted that contrary to what the opposition had tried to pin on him, the inquiry found no motive to defraud or corruption on behalf of the president or the members of the government.

“Everything that took place in relation to the investment programme was to me the most painful period of my 40-year presence in politics.”

The government was forced to pull the plug on its programme in November last year following a damning video aired by Al Jazzera, which also led to the resignations the House president Demetris Syllouris and Akel MP Christakis Giovanis.

The video, filmed undercover, showed Syllouris and Giovanis offering to help a fictitious Chinese businessman with a criminal record secure citizenship.

A couple of months before, Al Jazeera had aired another report suggesting Cyprus was providing citizenships to dubious individuals. The government fiercely denied the report, seeking to assign ulterior motives on the broadcaster.

There had also been damning reports before that, whose content the inquiry eventually confirmed.

The president used the confirmation event as an opportunity to highlight the work of the government during the eight years of his administration and to outline the next steps in the remaining 20 months.

The new cabinet members are Stefi Drakou, who was appointed justice minister, Michalis Hadjipantelas, health minister, and Anastasia Anthousi who will be taking over the newly created welfare junior ministry.

Marios Pelecanos and Niovi Parisinou were appointed government spokesman and deputy government spokesperson, respectively.

Panayiotis Sentonas moved from deputy government spokesman to commissioner for citizens while Andreas Iosif took the president’s press office.

Addressing the new members of the government, Anastasiades said the appointments were based on their academic qualifications, their professionalism and experiences, but also their ethos and honesty.

“I am absolutely convinced that, being fully aware of the responsibility you are taking on, you will look worthy of the expectations that accompany your appointment,” he said.

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