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15 June, 2024
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AG says release of 'golden passports' files would harm investigations

After lawmakers rejected the state budget, the Attorney General finally explained his reasoning in advising the government to withhold files on the island's disgraced citizenship scheme


The findings of the investigative committee looking into the Cyprus’ disgraced Citizenship by Investment scheme will be made public to the degree that will not affect public interest, Attorney General Giorgos Savvides said Friday.

“Multiple public statements have been made regarding the Attorney General of the Republic not wanting transparency through his blocking the publication of findings of the investigative committee on exceptional cases of citizenships granted to foreign businessmen and investors,” Savvides said.

“Transparency and public interest are principles which we all respect and serve,” he said, adding that “while I acknowledge and fully understand the desire for transparency, for reasons of public interest, my primary responsibility and obligation is to safeguard the criminal investigations and the evidence which may be irreparably affected by the disclosure of the content of the findings of the investigative committee,” Savvides said.

The Attorney General added that “it must become widely understood that the invocation of the term 'transparency' cannot and should not allow acts that cause harm to proceedings with the ultimate aim of punishing the guilty, or be tantamount to interfering with, or influencing, any investigation. "

"Such actions, in addition to being a criminal offense, will ultimately enable criminals to avoid punishment," he said.

Savvidis stated that "it is for this reason that, exercising my legal discretion, I did not grant 'unconditional' power to the investigative committee to make their findings public".

The Attorney General said however that in view of the committee’s wish to make their findings public, he authored a letter dated November 6 that assured members of the committee that he will study the findings and allow their publication if they do not affect public interest.

The government and Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides have been at loggerheads over access to case files linked to Cyprus’ disgraced Citizenship by Investment Programme, following a legal opinion issued by Attorney General George Savvides who advised the interior ministry not to hand over data citing an ongoing investigation.

Savvides, who also served as member of the Cabinet last year as justice minister before becoming the state’s chief law enforcer, had told the administration it was not obligated to hand over files and went on to assign an independent committee to investigate the programme following a request of the Cabinet.

The impasse led to lawmakers’ rejection of the 2021 state budget on Thursday, as the government stood its ground despite warnings by opposition parties and DIKO in particular that they would vote the budget down if the files are not released to the auditor, with party leader Nicolas Papadopoulos stating that a vote in favour of the budget would be comparable to a vote in favour of corruption.

Cyprus  |  passport  |  citizenship  |  scheme  |  investment  |  files  |  budget  |  state

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