Parliament in Cyprus is expected to debate proposals over the passport scandal, including whether a new law can force the government to hand over files to the auditor general as well as a freeze on pending applications allegedly being squeezed through before the disgraced scheme is set to go on hiatus.
Nicholas Papadopoulos, the leader of centre party DIKO, weighed in on an ongoing dispute Friday morning on state-radio, accusing the government of deliberately not handing over case files to the auditor general, regarding applications through the Citizenship by Investment Programme, currently scheduled to be suspended on November 1.
“They are worried about the case files because they have a lot to hide,” Papadopoulos said, adding that the auditor general is the only official whose findings would be published as opposed to “other probes that would not be made public.”
Papadopoulos also said his DIKO party was ready to block the state budget in the House over this, saying “transparency within the government is top priority.”
'They are trying to squeeze more passport applications through before November 1 deadline, if foreign media get wind of this it will be another embarrassment'
The opposition leader went on to accuse the government of wasting time last year before proposing new regulations for tightening the rules of the programme, alleging that corruption was kept unchecked even after foreign media attention exposed a number of scandals.
“They were too late,” Papadopoulos said.
Green Party leader George Perdikis also spoke on the radio, saying currently there were about 1000 passport applications pending, with 25 alone being approved in just one day.
“They are still reviewing applications based on criteria that were deemed problematic,” Perdikis said.
“They are trying to squeeze through more passport applications,” Perdikis said, noting that a November 1 deadline to suspend the programme could once again backfire if “foreign media get wind of this and it will be another embarrassment.”
Perdikis said House representatives on Friday would debate proposed legislation that include a call on the auditor general to have unimpeded access to Interior Ministry passport case files.
Other proposals for debate included a dissolution measure for the legislative assembly, which requires an absolute majority to take place.
Another opposition bill would call for early elections while a Green Party proposal would also call for a freeze on all investor applications, essentially banning the government from reviewing, adjudicating, and approving any more applications until the current format of the investor programme is phased out after the end of the month.
DIKO and left opposition AKEL also called on President Nicos Anastasiades to resign amid the passport scandal, with the commander-in-chief saying he would not step down.
“The President won’t betray the decision made by a big majority of citizens and he shall remain in office in accordance with the Constitution and the will of the people,” a presidential statement said.
Former House Speaker Demetris Syllouris and AKEL MP Christakis Giovanis, who is also a land developer, both resigned from their positions after a secret Al Jazeera video went viral, alleging organized political corruption involving passport applications from ineligible foreign investors.