A preliminary report of the audit service’s probe into the controversial citizenship by investment scheme will be ready by the end of the year or early next year, Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said Tuesday.
Michaelides said his service planned to go through all case files relating to 3,500 investors and around 3,500 relatives who were granted citizenship as part of the scheme, which was unceremoniously scrapped last year following a series of damning media reports.
He said they will check all notes addressed to ministry officers, to ministers, and the cabinet to see if there were any problematic cases.
“We will look into all 3,500 investors at the land registry, what properties they acquired, if there were any sales, if sales contracts were drawn, if they were fulfilled or if they were annulled afterwards and so on,” Michaelides said.
State auditors will also be checking if each of the 3,500 investors had acquired a house worth a minimum €500,000 and how much money they saved in VAT by paying 5 per cent instead of 19 per cent.
An inquiry into the programme had found that 53 per cent of the 6,779 citizenships given were unlawful and said politicians and institutions had political responsibilities while certain applicants and service providers may be held criminally culpable.
“Specifically, from the 6,779 naturalisations… 3,609 individuals, or 53 per cent, concerned family members and company executives, which were naturalised unlawfully,” head of the inquiry Myronas Nikolatos said.
According to the report, of the 47 per cent of applications that were lawful, 34 per cent did not satisfy all the criteria.
In October, the cabinet decided to rescind the citizenship of 45 individuals who did not fit the criteria.
Speaking after a meeting with Diko chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos, Michaelides said the audit was ongoing and the preliminary report was expected to be ready by the end of the year or early in 2022.
Michalides said the service had planned to start the audit in August last year, but it could not because the government had refused to hand over the files, citing the inquiry.
The auditor said despite the temporary delay, the act constituted a restriction of the service’s independence.
“We think the audit service does not enjoy the necessary support and I think there are many examples,” the auditor said.
Recently, his service highlighted the Presidential Palace’s decision to make four staffers, one a relative of the president, permanent, and instead of commenting on the substance, Michaelides said he was personally attacked and accused of having ulterior motives.