Two British lawyers arrived in Cyprus on Monday to assist with ongoing investigations of the anti-corruption authority, one of the cases thought to relate to the ‘golden passports’ affair.

The Cyprus Mail was able to confirm earlier media reports that the two lawyers will be signing a contract with the authority for a certain period of time.

The anti-corruption authority itself has withheld comment, but it has not denied these reports either.

It’s understood the two British experts would be meeting with the members of the authority either late on Monday or on Tuesday. At the meeting they will sign a services contract covering their remuneration and their terms of reference – specifying exactly what they will be investigating on behalf of the authority.

According to reports, the foreign experts will be tasked with two cases which the authority has prioritised – a complaint involving former president Nicos Anastasiades in relation to the ‘golden passports’, and a complaint involving deputy attorney-general Savvas Angelides.

The first case reportedly concerns a possible conflict of interest for Anastasiades and ministers in his cabinet, in the sense that law firms associated with them had operated as service providers for Cypriot passport applicants under the now-defunct citizenship-by-investment scheme.

The second file is based on a complaint made by auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides, and pertains to the deputy attorney-general. It likewise alleges a potential conflict of interest for the deputy AG in relation to the suspension of prosecutions in the case of the Israeli ‘spy van’. Also, that Angelides had suspended a prosecution against a person who was a former client of his law firm.

Earlier, the deputy AG had released a statement categorically denying these allegations.

It has been suggested that, due to the sensitivity of these two cases, the anti-corruption authority decided to hire foreign experts whose integrity and impartiality could not be impugned.

The authority may investigate any public official, from the president down to municipal councilors. It can open a file based either on eponymous or anonymous complaints. It can also investigate any person in the private sector, if that person has had dealings with the public sector.

However, some have described the authority as ‘toothless’ in that it does not have powers of interrogation. The authority may interview individuals, but cannot interrogate them as police would. The interviews are not under oath.

Once the authority has completed a report, it forwards its findings to the attorney-general’s office. The latter is not bound to act on the authority’s findings.

But the authority reserves the right to make its findings public. To date, that hasn’t been put to the test.

Established in July last year, the authority has more than 80 open cases before it. Its budget comes to approximately €1 million, and its staff consists of seconded civil servants.