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16 April, 2021
 
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Passport committee shuns media over COVID

Media coverage uncertain after minister was asked to submit passport list under oath during closed session

Newsroom

The special investigative committee probing the passport scandal in the Republic of Cyprus cited the pandemic this week after banning reporters from hearings, while it was unclear how Thursday’s additional COVID measures would further affect media coverage.

On Thursday, the government implemented a night curfew and additional health measures, just short of a second lockdown, in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

But it was unclear how health protocols would be implemented by a special independent committee probing Cyprus’ passport scandal in connection with the country’s disgraced Citizenship by Investment Programme.

On Tuesday, according to a statement by the committee, Interior Minister Nikos Nouris was the first witness to testify during a hearing that took place behind closed doors.

Nouris, who testified under oath, was called by the four-member committee to submit an official list of foreign investors and their relatives who obtained citizenships through the programme known as “golden passports.”

The minister was asked to submit the list following reports that previous information in the hands of the committee, which had been obtained via subpoenas from various state agencies and departments, could not be reconciled with other official documents, prompting the investigators to ask Nouris to deposit an official list under oath.

The committee hinted that the decision whether to allow reporters to attend hearings would be re-examined each time in accordance with health protocols and measures

Investigators also asked the minister to talk about the process of how foreign entrepreneurs and investors went about obtaining citizenship, as well as touch on what caused delays in putting in place necessary regulations and monitoring mechanisms.

Nouris was also asked to elaborate on what actions he took as minister when he came into office regarding the programme including whether anybody had attempted to exert influence on him.

The committee, which also asked the minister for additional documents at the soonest possible, hinted at journalists that the decision whether to allow reporters to attend hearings would be re-examined each time in accordance with health protocols and measures.

The investigative committee was put together by Attorney General George Savvides, who was instructed by a Cabinet decision to task the team with sifting through Cyprus’ golden passport scheme in the wake of corruption scandals and systemic failures.

Foreign criticism over the years and a recent exclusive by Al Jazeera network exposed the programme with allegations of corruption and violations of Cypriot and EU law.

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