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AG plays down further golden passport trials

The attorney-general on Tuesday suggested the public should manage their expectations regarding new prosecutions in relation to the ‘golden passports’ affair, where to date just one case has been brought to court.

Giorgos Savvides was responding to questions from journalists after an appearance in parliament where he and MPs discussed the 2024 budget for the Law Office of the Republic – the attorney-general’s office.

“As to when new cases on the naturalisations might be filed, it depends on when the completed files come to the attorney-general’s office,” he said.

“In order for someone who commits an offence to end up in court or prison, three things need to happen. First, an investigation. Second, the attorney-general’s office must assess and decide whether to file a criminal case in court. And third, the court needs to adjudge the case.”

The public, he added, needs to understand that the attorney-general is responsible only for the intermediate stage.

“Therefore, as soon as we have completed cases from the police, as soon as we have completed cases from criminal investigators or other authorities, we assess them and file them in court. How long it takes to finish an investigation, or how long it takes for a court to adjudge a case, these are matters beyond our control.”

So far, just one case relating to the citizenship-by-investment scheme has gone to court. The defendants are former House president Demetris Syllouris, former Akel MP and developer Giovanis, and senior member of staff at the Giovanis Group Antonis Antoniou.

They face charges that include conspiracy to defraud the Republic and influencing a public official in violation of the laws criminalising corruption.

But at the same time, the AG hinted that more cases relating to the ‘golden passports’ may be coming down the pipe. He said he’d be meeting with investigators again in December to “discuss matters pertaining to citizenship cases.”

Earlier, while in parliament reviewing the budget, Savvides grumbled about the decision to nix plans to relocate the agency to new premises, saying the current building hosting it is unfit for purpose.

Speaking to MPs, the AG sought to dispel “whispers” to the effect that the new self-owned building slated for the agency would’ve been too costly.

He cited a finance ministry memo, which said that renting a building would have cost twice as much as constructing new premises.

“It is common knowledge that the [current] premises are old, unsuitable and unsafe, and that they often flood,” the AG commented.

“The government, realising the necessity of relocating, had initiated the process to construct a new modern building hosting all the departments coming under the attorney-general’s office.

“However, it was with great disappointment that we learned from the media on September 29 the government’s decision to cancel the tender for the construction of the new building, due to fiscal considerations. While we respect the government’s decision, we disagree.”

 

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