House President Demetris Syllouris has formally suggested to President Nicos Anastasiades that the Cyprus citizenship-by-investment scheme is paused until decisions for its improvement or even complete termination are taken, and called for a meeting of party leaders to discuss the scheme that has recently attracted international attention after a document leak led to a series of articles and videos published by the media network Al Jazeera.
In statements on Monday, Syllouris said he, along with Parliament, are “taking the initiative to resolve any doubts that may exist about the program, and if doubts remain then there should not be a program.”
Toward this end, Syllouris said he sent Anastasiades a letter dated Monday, placing himself at the disposal of the President of the Republic "to facilitate any possible investigation".
In the letter, Syllouris suggested that investigations into any wrongdoings in view of potentially revoking any citizenships granted to foreign investors through the scheme are fast-tracked.
Syllouris also called for a meeting of party leaders “for joint discussion as regards whether the program must continue or be terminated.”
“If it is decided that the program should not be terminated, then suggestions for its improvement could be heard at the meeting.”
But even if it is not terminated, Syllouris suggested that “the program is suspended until it is further improved, on the basis of concerns and suggestions voiced at the meeting of party heads.”
The suspension, he said, could feature a pause in accepting applications for a period of one or two months, during which time any suggestions for improvement could be tabled and decisions can be taken.
Further, if it is decided that the program should be continued, the House President said planning and a structured information campaign is imperative to prevent the program from being targeted as it is today.
Local law enforcement have focused on the leak of over 1,400 documents related to the ‘golden passports’ scheme that were obtained by Al Jazeera and which led to a series of articles and videos last week that presented murky and even dangerous aspects of the scheme.
In a press conference on Monday, President of ruling party DISY Averof Neophytou said that pictures of the leaked documents showed they bear the seal of Parliament, which makes 18 people – heads of parliamentary parties, the presidency, and members of the House interior committee – the potential suspects of the leak.
Focus shifted once again to the Cyprus ‘golden passports’ scheme this week after back-to-back reports by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit took a hit at how the scheme led to the island selling Cypriot, and by extension European, citizenship to criminals, fugitives, and people considered to be at high risk of corruption, such as politically-exposed persons (PEPs).
The reports, based on over one thousand classified documents relating to the scheme, which Al Jazeera dubbed The Cyprus Papers, and which consisted of almost 1,500 passport applications containing over 2,400 names, “showed Cyprus failed to conduct due diligence on dozens of cases, allowing criminals and people under international sanctions to buy citizenship for the EU-member state,” Al Jazeera reported.
In a press conference last week, the Cyprus Interior Minister Nicos Nouris described the Al Jazeera reports as “propaganda” that only served to damage the island’s economy and reputation through “deceptive means” and “falsified information.”