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28 May, 2024
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Cyprus’ passport probe dispute widens

Gloves are off as DIKO party leader responds to President’s letter over golden passport probe dispute


Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and DIKO party leader Nicholas Papadopoulos took their disagreement over probing golden passports to a whole new level this week, while questions remained over the independent committee’s reassurances of transparency in the investigation.

Anastasiades wrote a letter to Papadopoulos on Monday, telling the DIKO head he was surprised at the party leader’s stance on the budget over “not disagreements on fiscal policies but unrelated reasons.”

Papadopoulos, whose party last week singlehandedly torpedoed government plans to pass the 2021 budget, has accused the government of not being straight with the public regarding the manner by which allegations of corruption linked to golden passports was being carried out.

Based on a copy of the letter published in local media, Anastasiades argued that the government was following advice from Attorney General George Savvides in deciding against handing over passport files to the audit office.

'How will society know if he has indeed assumed responsibility if he has in fact concealed it'

Savvides, who served as justice minister before becoming the state’s chief law enforcer, had been asked by the Cabinet to task an independent committee with looking into corruption allegations following an Al Jazeera investigation that led to a police probe.

President says the buck stops with him

Anastasiades further charged Papadopoulos with “not trusting anyone but the auditor general” with the President adding that he was ready to assume responsibility for his actions.

“I repeat that I am prepared to take the blame and resign the office I was voted in by the people if it is determined that I was implicated in any case of corruption or illegal act or even if I showed any lenience to any action that caused or is causing damage in the state's coffers,” Anastasiades wrote.

Papadopoulos asks how will people know

Papadopoulos wasted no time on Tuesday when he replied on Twitter, tagging the President in the comment and saying “we are left with the question of how exactly are we going to find out which are those responsibilities that Anastasiades may assume when he does not allow an audit but instead imposes obfuscation?”

“How will society know if he has indeed assumed responsibility if he has in fact concealed it,” Papadopoulos added.

Anastasiades maintained in his letter that his administration never refused to hand over case files, but argued the government had an obligation to respect the attorney general’s legal advice.

Savvides’ advice came around the time he was putting together an independent committee to look into alleged corruption in the country’s disgraced Citizenship by Investment Programme.

The committee’s investigation came under harsh criticism from the get-go over reporters being denied access to the proceedings, with government officials citing coronavirus concerns.

Redacted publication up to attorney general

Savvides had also raised eyebrows when he removed from his orders a provision for independent investigations that would obligate the committee to publish its probe findings.

But on Monday, a statement from the committee said the attorney general had agreed to allow selective publication of the findings, adding it would be up to Savvides’ discretion to determine what could be published after taking into consideration both the public’s interest but also the integrity of any possible criminal proceedings.

Critics have pointed out a provision in the Regulations ought to have required that the full findings be provided to Parliament if anything was redacted ahead of publication.


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