Cypriot Interior Minister Nikos Nouris is expected on Wednesday to provide answers to Al Jazeera’s “golden passports” story, while the network has rejected accusations of political motives behind the story.
Nouris said he would provide specific details on the Cyprus Investment Programme, known widely as golden passports, which had undergone major changes in 2018 while the government also pushed for additional stricter measures in June 2020.
According to Kathimerini Cyprus’ Apostolos Tomaras, Nouris won’t be referring to specific cases cited in the Al Jazeera reports but will provide details on regulations and procedures that had been in place at the time.
'That’s how we work, it’s called investigative journalism'
A number of reports by Qatar-based Al Jazeera raised questions over Cyprus’ citizenship programme, after the network reported on leaked documents revealing names of individuals and saying some beneficiaries did not meet the criteria for the EU-member island’s passport.
Al Jazeera investigative journalist Deborah Davies told Sigma TV on Tuesday that her team had thousands of names but so far released only 60, saying some of them were linked to financial crime or were political figures at high risk of committing such offences.
But the Cypriot government says mistakes were made in the past, with government officials pointing out that all 60 names had been checked and were shown not to have violated any rules at the time of their application.
“Well, that doesn’t fit with our research. We have some names where they had a criminal conviction before they applied, and this was before the rule changed in 2019,” Davies said.
The journalist pointed to what she described as “huge confusion and a gap in the law” as to what was to happen to the passports of individual investors and their dependents who are found to have obtained citizenship unlawfully.
“It seems that they can still hang on to these passports they’ve bought despite the fact that the government is saying its reviewing applications and it will strip citizenships from certain individuals,” Davies added.
Davies was also asked by her interviewer to comment on government officials including the interior minister who said they saw political motives behind the story, including alleged cooperation between Turkey and Qatar in response to tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Rubbish, complete and absolute rubbish,” Davies replied.
The journalist went on to say that she and her team began their investigation when they received 2500 names, saying that was “months and months ago” and put out the story after finishing a “very rigorous research” and having gone through their editors and lawyers.
“That’s how we work, it’s called investigative journalism,” she said.