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20 May, 2024
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Conflict of interest raised again in passport probe

Audit office complies with Legal request but also shares probe findings with state’s anti-corruption agency


The audit office in the Republic of Cyprus is sending all its findings on golden passports to the state’s anti-corruption agency, citing a conflict of interest for the state’s two chief law enforcement officers who served as ministers during the investment scandal.

Last week Deputy Attorney General Savvas Angelides requested copies of probe findings issued as reports by the Auditor General’s office in connection with the country’s disgraced Citizenship by Investment Program.

According to Audit Office spokesperson Marios Petrides, his department would be sending all four reports to the Legal Department as well as providing copies to the country’s newly established Independent Authority against Corruption, which would be required to review receipted material.

Petrides, who spoke on radio earlier this week, said copies would be provided to the anti-corruption agency “because of conflict of interest” issues raised for Angelides and his boss, Attorney General George Savvides.

Petrides says copies will be provided as requested to the Legal Department but also the anti-corruption agency 'because of conflict of interest' for the deputy attorney general and his boss

Opposition parties have raised in the past issues of conflict of interest for Savvides and Angelides, who served as justice and defense ministers respectively prior to being appointed to their current positions in late June 2020 by President Nicos Anastasiades.

Savvides, who blocked the audit office from probing the scandal during other ongoing investigations, initially challenged Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides’ authority on the matter.

Michaelides, who has been at odds with the Attorney General ever since, maintained he had authority to independently investigate the matter and demanded all files from the interior ministry be shared with his department.

The audit office’s request was not honored until after probes ordered by Savvides came to a conclusion, with a number of criminal cases already going through the court system.

But critics have warned that prosecutions based on specific probes were being decided by Savvides and Angelides, who themselves had been members of the Cabinet during a time when the audit office’s latest report says “illegal acts” took place.

On Wednesday Interior Minister Nikos Nouris said seven citizenships granted to foreign investors and family members were being revoked on the basis of probe findings, referring to investigative committees put together by Savvides.

A number of investors, including Malaysian fugitive Low Taek Jho also known as Jho Low, have filed appeals against the decision to revoke passports, while a number of other foreign investors were reportedly being stripped of their Cypriot citizenships for being on an EU sanctions list targeting Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The audit office says they are providing copies of all their findings to the anti-corruption case, including information of wrongdoing during Cabinet sessions, with Petrides saying there did not seem to be political will from the government to tackle issues laid out in the Attorney General’s reports.

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