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Giovani Group says latest Al Jazeera report ‘baseless’

Passport

The Giovani Group on Tuesday said none of its executives have ever had dealings of any sort with persons named in the latest report by the Al Jazeera Investigative Unit on money laundering through the purchase of English football clubs.

The network new expose, ‘The Men Who Sell Football’, reveals how English football clubs are bought up by criminals and turned into vehicles for money laundering via offshore trusts. During the contacts of its undercover reporters with fixers, in their quest to help Mr X, a fictional Chinese businessman launder his money by acquiring an English football club, they were told that they could help the man get a Cypriot passport under a different name.

The report, aired on Monday evening, also reveals how the Qatar-based network found itself investigating Cyprus’ controversial passports-for-sale scheme.

The Giovani Group of Companies denied the latest Al Jazeera reports on its alleged involvement in such activities.

The latest expose reported that then Akel MP Christakis Giovanis who is described as “a major Cypriot property developer” had according to the report, met the fixers back in 2019 in the UK and allegedly told them the passport could be issued in eight weeks for an investment of US$11.8m, some $8m more than the official scheme cost.

The report also said Giovanis sent them to lawyer Andreas Pittadjis who would do the legwork on the passport deal, and who said the passport could incorporate a change of name on the passport.

“We unequivocally declare that neither the Group, nor its CEO, nor any of its executives, have or have ever had any involvement with English football,” the company said in a written statement on Tuesday.

“We also categorically state that we have never collaborated professionally or otherwise with any of the persons presented in the report as intermediaries of clubs and as far as we know none of our clients is a shareholder or executive of an English (football) team,” it added.

It said that the Giovani Group has been a provider in the Cyprus Investment Programme (KEP) in a single application for naturalisation and was a seller of real estate to a small number of KEP applicants.

“Any reference in the report to the Group and its executives is groundless and is based on reports from third parties,” the statement said. The company also raised questions on “the insistence of the Al Jazeera network to present the Giovani Group and its executives as the leading figures of the KEP”, since, it said, it has been proven that the Group’s participation in the KEP as a provider or even as a real estate builder was limited.

The company also said that the timing of republishing material “that was obtained illegally in 2019” raises questions and leads to unsubstantiated conclusions.

‘The Cyprus Papers Undercover’ report was released last October and led to the resignation of Giovanis and House President Demetris Syllouris after they were presented in the report among the key actors who could help the Chinese businessman acquire a Cypriot passport despite that he had a criminal record.

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