The golden passport trial has been postponed until April 26, when a number of objections by the defence lawyers of the suspects will be examined, the Nicosia Criminal Court decided on Wednesday.

In a related development, the bar association said that 26 law offices have been examined in the ongoing investigations into violations of the now defunct the citizenship-by-investment or golden passports scheme.

According to what was heard in court, the trial cannot proceed until the new composition of the court is decided in June.

At a hearing earlier in the day, the judge said that on April 26 they will examine an appeal filed by the defence lawyer of the three of the four defendants, Yiorgos Papaioannou.

The four defendants are former House president Demetris Syllouris, former Akel MP and developer Christakis Giovani, senior lawyer for the Giovani Group Antonis Antoniou, and lawyer Andreas Pittadjis.

The trial proceedings are based on the findings of the Nicolatos investigation into the citizenship-by-investment scheme, prompted by the airing of a report by the Al Jazeera network in 2020.

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

Papaioannou’s objection is that the charges brought against the defendants are based on a law that does not exist.

Meanwhile, the prosecution, deputy attorney-general Savvas Angelides, as in the previous hearing, reiterated on Wednesday that due to the changing composition of the court after June 30, 2023, the trial should be postponed.

Pittadjis was present at the hearing on Wednesday, although having already entered a not-guilty plea. The rest of the defendants were not present.

Commenting on the objections filed by the defence, Angelides said that although it is the “absolute right” of the defence to advance the objections it raises, this cannot be achieved until June 30, the date on which the composition of the court changes.

It is noted that on January 30, 2023, the appointments of judges of the newly established court were announced, among which is the president of the Criminal Court, Stavros Stavrou.

“It will naturally be impossible for this court to complete the case, with the consequence that it will be suspended and get a new number. (… ) I think that the outcome of the case will be its annulment and its retrial under a new composition,” Angelides said.

The court decided that it will examine the objections on April 26, while on September 7 the new composition of the court will begin the hearing against Pittadjis.

Meanwhile, the bar association head Christos Clerides said that 26 law offices have been examined in the golden passports scandal.

Asked about the large number of complaints during the period 2020-2022 and their connection to the naturalisation programme, Clerides explained that these cases are first examined by the bar association board, which is the competent supervisory authority under the relevant legislation for money laundering.

Regarding the issue of passports, he continued, audits have been carried out on 26 law firms, four of which have been indicted, five have already been issued and served with a guilty verdict, while three have been sentenced and served.

For five law firms, he said, a report has been prepared and is being studied by the Anti-Money Laundering Department of the association, while in one case a criminal case is pending, which is handled by the attorney-general’s office.

Eight cases have been closed, since either there was no finding or it was not possible to prove a violation, Clerides said.