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15 June, 2024
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Cyprus corruption figures return to court

Al Jazeera video prompts government action and program withdrawal

Newsroom / CNA

On September 12, 2023, the four accused individuals will once again appear before the Nicosia District Court in Cyprus. This pertains to a criminal case involving both the reporting by the Al Jazeera media network and events related to exceptional naturalizations of foreign investors and entrepreneurs, based on the findings of the Nicolaou Committee.

The accused in this case are the former President of the House of Representatives, Demetris Soullouris, former AKEL Member of Parliament Christakis Tziovanis, lawyer Andreas Pittatzi, and one of Mr. Tziovanis' company executives, Antonis Antoniou.

All four face charges related to conspiracy to subvert the Republic and influence a public official in violation of the law that enforces the Council of Europe's Convention on Criminalizing Corruption.

As reported by the Cyprus News Agency, the prosecuting authority will once again request that the four be referred for a direct trial in front of the Criminal Court.

The four accused individuals are scheduled to appear at the Nicosia District Court at 09:00, where the charges will be read to them, and they will be asked to admit or deny the allegations.

The prosecuting authority will also seek the release of the accused individuals on bail until their trial. This will be subject to conditions that the court deems necessary to ensure their presence at the trial.

It should be noted that the presumption of innocence applies to all accused individuals until proven guilty in court beyond any reasonable doubt.

Suspension since last June and re-filing
It is worth recalling that the Nicosia Criminal Court suspended this particular criminal case last June, which was subsequently re-filed with the same charges.

This action was taken due to changes in the composition of the Court after the appointments of the Judges of the newly established Court of Appeals were announced on January 30, 2023, including the then-President of the Nicosia Criminal Court, Stavros Stavrou. The Court of Appeals assumed its duties on July 1, 2023.

Moreover, the defense lawyers of the accused individuals had reserved their rights in the last trial, before the case was withdrawn. They aimed to protect their clients' rights and raise their preliminary objections, both regarding the alleged inability to commit the crime and the validity of the charges, under the new composition.

The four accused individuals first appeared before the Nicosia District Court on September 12, 2022, where it was decided to refer them for a direct trial at the Criminal Court.

The Court imposed conditions to ensure the presence of the accused at the trial. For the accused Soullouris, Tziovanis, and Antoniou, a bail amount of fifty thousand euros was set for each, with a credible guarantor. For Andreas Pittatzi, a bail amount of thirty thousand euros was set with a credible guarantor.

It is noted that Demetris Soullouris is represented by lawyer Chris Triantafyllides and a team of legal experts. Christakis Tziovanis and Antonis Antoniou are represented by lawyer George Papaioannou. Andreas Pittatzi, as a lawyer, represents himself in court.

The investigation ordered by the Attorney General lasted more than a year
The case was registered in the Nicosia District Court in July 2022 for the purpose of referral to the Criminal Court.

The investigation, ordered by the Attorney General George Savvides after the revelations in Al Jazeera's video, lasted over a year and extended internationally, where testimonies and evidence were collected.

Additionally, thousands of electronic messages found on the computers of the four individuals under investigation were examined.

The publication of the controversial video by Al Jazeera in October 2020 led to the withdrawal of the Cypriot Investment Program by the Government.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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