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23 September, 2021
 
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Legal battle heats up in golden passports

Attorney General and Deputy take House to court over resolution calling on both to recuse themselves

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The top two chief law enforcers in the Republic of Cyprus are taking the parliament to court over a resolution, in which members called on the two officials to recuse themselves in the golden passport probe after raising conflicts of interest

Last month, in a final session before parliament dissolution ahead of May 30 elections, the House passed a resolution after rigorous debate calling on Attorney General George Savvides and Deputy Attorney General Savvas Angelides to recuse themselves from the evaluation of an interim report on golden passports, citing potential conflicts of interest.

Savvides previously served as justice minister before becoming the nation’s chief legal advisor, while Angelides was defense minister with the two men having sat in on various Cabinet meetings during golden passport approvals.

The House passed the non-binding resolution on April 22, prompting Savvides to file an appeal against the decision on April 28.

But new motions have been filed by both Savvides and Angelides after the resolution was published in the official gazette on May 10, with both appeals seeking a motion to rescind the resolution on grounds of being unlawful.

Specifically, the attorney and deputy attorney argue the resolution violates the Constitution, the principle of separation of power, legislation on investigative probes, as well as European law.

The attorney general and deputy attorney argue the resolution violates the Constitution, the principle of separation of power, legislation on investigative probes, as well as European law

According to Philenews, Savvides argued in court that there were several issues that begged discussion regarding the legality of the resolution, raising the question whether the House ought to have sent the resolution to the President, who could either sign it or refer it to the courts.

The court has given House lawyers until the end of the month to raise an objection, after they also took issue with the number of lawsuits filed over the issue.

Reports said the attorney general is expected to decide whether he would withdraw the initial appeal that he filed on his own.

An investigative committee whose four members were assigned by Savvides delivered to him last month an interim report on Cyprus’ disgraced Citizenship by Investment Programme and allegations of corruption.

The attorney general then published a redacted version of the interim report, citing privacy issues and an ongoing police investigation.

But opposition parties DIKO, AKEL, Greens, and Solidarity, who sponsored the resolution, have raised conflicts of interest for both Savvides and Angelides after the two former ministers served in the Cabinet when executive decisions on citizenship approvals were taking place.

Savvides got involved after Interior Minister Nicos Nouris, who declined to comply with Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides’ request to inspect passport files, sought a legal opinion and deferred to the newly-installed attorney general following an Al Jazeera documentary on alleged corruption in Cypriot golden passports.

President Nicos Anastasiades has suggested the CIP program failed because of “recklessness,” pointing out during his testimony before the committee that advertisements by service providers alluded to the “purchase” of Cypriot passports rather than the possibility of obtaining citizenship.

Asked to name specific cases, the President declined to provide names but accepted a request to write them down on a piece of paper, saying he knew names, companies, and law firms.

Anastasiades and a number of current and former ministers, as well as high-ranking administration officials, have been associated in the media with law firms linked to golden passport activities.

But Anastasiades has vehemently rejected any wrongdoing or associations with his former law firm and has repeatedly stated he would resign if anyone could prove any of the allegations launched against him.

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