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Cyprus

Trial into passport scandal delayed again

passport

The criminal trial for four people linked to the passport scandal revealed in the Al Jazeera expose was postponed again on Monday.

On trial are high-profile individuals in Cyprus including former House President Demetris Syllouris and former Akel MP Christakis Giovanis. Lawyer Andreas Pittadjis and one of Giovannis’ company executives Antonis Antoniou are also facing charges.

The trial proceedings are based on the findings of the Nicolatos investigation into the citizenship-by-investment scheme, prompted by the airing of a damning report into it by the Al Jazeera network.

In the almost hour-long expose, undercover reporters played the role of agents on behalf of a pretend Chinese businessman with a criminal record to secure citizenship. Syllouris, Giovanis and others were shown in the video offering to help the man get citizenship despite the criminal record.

The defendants face five charges, including conspiracy to defraud the Republic and influencing a public official in violation of the laws criminalising corruption.

Even though the proceedings got underway months ago, to date just one defendant – Pittadjis – has entered a plea, having pleaded not guilty. The rest of the defendants have yet to do so, as their lawyers insist pre-trial objections be heard first.

In the previous hearing, the defence lawyers raised pre-trial objections surrounding the proceedings themselves, citing conflict of interest and abuse of power. The prosecution’s response to the preliminary objections has now been postponed to February 22.

Pittadjis previously gave court a non-admission and will be back in court on March 8 and 9.

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