By Achilleas Demetriades
An initial reading of Auditor-general, Odysseas Michaelides, findings reveals the corrupt system relating to the Cyprus Investment Programme (CIP). I would like to congratulate the auditor-general on the work he has done and point out that this is how independent Authorities should operate.
His findings confirm those of the “Nikolatos’ Commission” inquiry report into the issue. A large number of citizenships have been approved without meeting the criteria, whereas these should have been in fact rejected. An even bigger number of relatives of those who had obtained Cypriot citizenship have been approved illegally.
Additional evidence relating to abuse of power emerges from the auditor-general’s probe:
o First, non-disclosure of information by civil service officers,
o Second, approval of citizenships by members of the Cabinet, when they knew the criteria were not met
o Third, misleading the House of Representatives
o Fourth, the loss of 204 million euro in VAT and 25 m. in fees
The auditor-general records the loss of huge amounts of public revenue, including from the illegal application of a reduced VAT rate (5 per cent instead of 19 per cent), the unlawful granting of citizenship to relatives of persons who had already become Cypriot nationals without investment, the absence of controls or even the cancellation of investments after gaining citizenship and finally from the non-compliance with the criteria for investment.
I would like to ask a direct question: who will undertake the criminal investigation of the issues that emerge, given that the present attorney-general and the deputy attorney-general, for a certain period of time, were members of the council of ministers which approved some of the golden passports?
And I have another direct question: Nikos Christodoulides who was present when thousands of golden passports were approved, in his capacity as foreign minister and prior to that as government spokesman; Doesn’t he have anything to say on the matter?
These findings explain why the European Commission initiated the procedure which leads Cyprus to the European Court, on the grounds of violating EU rules and regulations, not only with regard to the golden passports but also to the reduced VAT rate. Perhaps it is high time for the European Chief Prosecutor Laura Kovesi to take a stance on this important issue which concerns the violation of the acquis communautaire and specifically the loss of part of VAT to which the EU is entitled.
The file of the case on “golden passports” should not be put away in the drawer and be forgotten. The investigation into possible criminal responsibilities and abuse of power should remain open.
The new President of the Republic, who will be elected in February 2023, has a responsibility to lead an ‘Honest State’ which will restore Cyprus’ name and clean Augea’s stables. I have recently presented five proposals on this issue with a view to fight corruption.
Cyprus deserves better.