Four people accused of helping foreigners to get Cypriot Golden Passports in exchange for bribes in violation of the program, will appear in front of the Criminal Court next month, with the first hearing scheduled for October 11.
The defendants, who are facing criminal charges after the airing of a report by the Al Jazeera network, include former House President Demetris Syllouris, and former Akel MP and developer Christakis Giovani. The other two are senior lawyer for the Giovani Group, Antonis Antoniou, and lawyer Andreas Pittadjis.
At the time being, the first three have been released on a bail of €50,000 each, and the fourth for €30,000.
The illicit actions the four defendants are suspected to have engaged in was unveiled in 2020 by Al Jazeera journalists in an investigation called the Cyprus Papers.
In a documentary, an Al Jazeera reporter had contacted the defendants pretending to be a Chinese criminal and asking them to help him obtain a Golden Passport in exchange for bribes, to which all four had agreed.
The Cyprus Audit Office had then carried out an investigation, finding out that the country had lost millions in revenue to foreigners obtaining Golden Passports without any type of investment in the country.
[Significant loss of public funds] occurred from the illegal use of the reduced VAT rate and the illegal naturalisation of the thousands of people who were given Cypriot citizenship as members of the investors’ families, without these persons making any investment.
The findings had caused a scandal in Cyprus and the European Union, prompting the island country to put the Golden Passport scheme to an end. Several Golden passport holders had then been stripped of Cypriot nationality, following “necessary investigation in this regard.”
It is estimated that the Cypriot authorities have revoked the Golden passports of over 200 beneficiaries, out of the almost 7,000 that benefited from the program between 2007 and 2020.
Through the Golden Passport scheme, wealthy foreigners were permitted to acquire Cypriot citizenship and passports in exchange for a contribution of at least €2.5 million. Additional criteria also had to be met.
While the program has helped Cyprus’ economy rapidly grow, it has mainly lured Chinese and Russian investors, and has often been used for corruption, tax evasion and money laundering.