June trial for defendants in passport probe
Nine defendants have been referred to stand trial before the Larnaca-Famagusta criminal court on June 24 in the first case relating to Cyprus’ controversial citizenship by investment programme, the Cyprus News Agency reported on Wednesday.
The nine defendants are the law firm Harris Kyriakides LLC Lawyers, lawyer Michalis Kyriakides and seven other physical and legal persons.
They face a total of 37 charges, including forging government documents, circulating fake documents and conspiracy to commit an offence, it added.
The case is based on the findings of an ad hoc three-member panel headed by Securities and Exchange Commission chief Demetra Kalogerou and concerns an Iranian who obtained a Cypriot passport through the now defunct investment programme, allegedly falsifying his personal data to conceal he was wanted abroad.
Cypriot citizenship was also granted to his parents.
On Wednesday, Larnaca district court referred the case direct to trial at the criminal court on June 24 when the defendants are expected to be read the charges and asked to enter a plea. They have been released on bail pending trial.
The state Legal Service had first announced its decision to press charges on May 14. Police are investigating other cases from the Kalogerou report. Investigations for some have progressed and are expected to be referred to the attorney general for instructions soon, the Cyprus News Agency added.
Appointed in November 2019 to look into certain citizenships granted from 2012 to 2018, the Kalogerou panel had examined 12 files involving 42 individuals considered “high risk”.
Four of the files concerned seven persons who had withheld vital information on their applications.
In August last year, Al Jazeera aired a report on Cyprus’ citizenship by investment programme, based on an investigation of “more than 1,400 leaked documents”.
It dubbed the applications for citizenship, which it claimed contained the names of 2,544 people, the ‘Cyprus Papers’.
The broadcaster said Cyprus had been granting citizenships to dubious individuals, a claim that was fiercely rejected by the government, which nevertheless launched a full-scale probe into the programme, going back to 2008.
But even before the probe had time to start, Al Jazeera aired an undercover video showing former House president Demetris Syllouris and former Akel MP Christakis Giovanis offering to help a fictitious Chinese businessman with a criminal record secure citizenship.
The pair were forced to resign, as the government hastily terminated the programme.
The four-member panel looking into the programme issued a damning interim report recently, which said close to 52 per cent of the citizenships had been unlawful.
The interim report was handed to police with instructions to launch investigations according to the findings.
Published: 26 May 2021