Cyprus politicians, lawyer face trial in ‘golden passport’ scandal

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Politicians and a lawyer accused of selling Cyprus passports to dubious investors, exposed by a sting operation that ended the citizenship-for-investment scheme, are to stand trial next month, a court ruled on Monday.

Nicosia Criminal Court said the trial of former parliament speaker Demetris Syllouris, ex-MP Christakis Giovani, a senior manager of his real estate firm, Antonis Antoniou, and lawyer Andreas Pittadjis would open on October 26.


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The charges against the four men include conspiracy to subvert the Republic, bribery, and corruption, according to the official Cyprus News Agency.

They were released on conditional bail ranging from €50,000 ($50,000) to €30,000 each.

Parliament speaker Syllouris and opposition communist party AKEL MP Giovani were secretly filmed trying to facilitate a passport for a fugitive investor.

Prominent lawyer Pittadjis also featured in the video and others linked to Giovani’s property development company.

Syllouris –- who held the most senior political post after the president in Cyprus -- and Giovani later resigned, although both insisted they were innocent of any wrongdoing, saying the videos had been illegally recorded.

Until then, despite earlier criticism from Brussels, the government fiercely defended the passport scheme but abruptly had to scrap it in November 2020.

Following the damaging fallout, the government commissioned a public inquiry by former judge Myron Nicolatos following the broadcast.

The inquiry found the government broke the law countless times to grant citizenship to over 6,700 people from 2007 to 2020. The damning report said that 53 ppercent of the 6,779 passports granted were done so illegally, encouraged by a due diligence vacuum or insufficient background checks.

Cyprus’ passport scheme generated over €8 billion during its lifespan.

A member of the European Union, Cyprus began offering citizenship in exchange for substantial investment as early as 2007; the scheme was stepped up following the Mediterranean island’s 2013 economic crisis.

Dozens of those who applied for the so-called “golden passports” were under criminal investigation, international sanctions, or serving prison sentences.

Under the scheme, the government granted a passport for an investment of €2.5 million.

Read more: Cyprus scrutinizes ‘golden passport’ holders as it seeks Schengen membership

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