In a surprising twist on Wednesday, all charges against lawyer Andreas Pittadjis in the golden passports case were dropped at the Nicosia criminal court. He will now take on the role as defence lawyer for one of the defendants.
Pittadjis became infamous for his “this is Cyprus” quip which was aired in an Al Jazeera documentary over the golden passports scandal. When asked by an undercover reporter if he had previously changed a client’s name for a passport, he replied, laughing: “Of course, this is Cyprus!”
Al Jazeera’s investigation sparked nationwide fury and protests which led to the Nicolatos investigation into the citizenship-by-investment scheme – known as the ‘golden passports programme’ – and ultimately led to the case going to trial and the scheme being scrapped.
Pittadjis has been a defendant on the trial along with former House president Demetris Syllouris, former Akel MP and developer Christakis Giovani and officer for the Giovani Group Antonis Antoniou.
All defendants on Wednesday were expected to submit a plea at Nicosia criminal court however the state prosecution did an about turn after it said it had changed the charge sheet, removing Pittadjis.
In an extra twist, Pittadjis will now take up the defence for his now former defendant Antoniou.
In a highly emotional Facebook post afterwards, Pittadjis said he had been “unjustly persecuted” and “unfairly betrayed” during the whole ordeal, accusing the TV network of deliberately editing the material in a fake manner.
“My soul was filled with bruises. My body a punching bag that dripped with blood, sweat and tears. I accepted the merciless beatings of populism from all corners, who used my corpse as a stage to sell morality. They thirstily drank my tears and danced zembekiko with my pain.”
Pittadjis said he extended an olive branch to forgive them and described the documentary as “Turkish tank crews led by Qatar’s Al Jazeera channel, that passed over the country and bombed it. With a dirty edited and fake video, they won a hybrid war.”
He added justice will only be served if Antoniou and Giovani are also exonerated as they are still “unfairly on the cross of martyrdom”. The former defendant highlighted he had been honoured that the three had “fought together, cried together, hurt together and dreamed of justice together. That in these three years we have been each other’s support.”
According to reports in September the legal service is dealing with one of its biggest ever caseloads surrounding the ‘golden passport’ scandal, with over 110 box files of data to be processed.
The attorney general’s office is still investigating the material however sources hinted there were enough indicators to suggest criminal proceedings.
The case files concern 22 incidents of passports in return for investments, with suspects including a former minister, under major investigation, as well as a law firm which aided in the scheme.
A civil service employee is also facing potential charges, though efforts to finalise any charges are still ongoing.