Nicosia criminal court rejected on Wednesday the pre-trial request raised by defendants in the ‘golden passports’ case as judges decided the charges are valid.

The case began last October but is still mired in the pre-trial phase as defence objections led to a trial within a trial.

The proceedings are based on the findings of the Nicolatos investigation into the citizenship-by-investment scheme, which defence argued led to charges filed against their clients based on non-existent laws at the time – therefore violating their clients’ rights.

But the court ruled against that argument and other objections raised by the defence.

Proceedings are now set to continue on May 15.

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.

In an almost hour-long expose by Al Jazeera which prompted the Nicolatos investigation, 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.

To date just one defendant – Pittadjis – has entered a plea, having pleaded not guilty. The remainder have yet to do so, as their lawyers insisted pre-trial objections be heard first.

According to the case history, attorney George Papaioannou, representing Giovani and Antoniou, urged the court to stay the proceedings. He argued that some of the charges filed against his clients were based on a non-existent law at the time, and therefore violated his clients’ rights.

He was referring to charges 1 through 3, and charge 5.

Charges 1 through 3 relate to two passports issued to foreign nationals and approved by cabinet in 2019. Charge 5 is thought to relate to the allegations surrounding a meeting – caught on tape – between a pretend proxy of a Chinese national with a criminal background and Syllouris to discuss issuing a Cypriot passport.

The charge sheet says charge 5 has to do with the granting of a passport (the third passport) to a foreign national – but it does not name the individual.

The defendants’ attorneys argue that this is highly irregular.

For his part, lawyer Chris Triantafyllides – representing defendant Syllouris – reiterated that his client is being charged for actions which ultimately were rubberstamped by the government itself.