The main left party opposition in the Republic of Cyprus is firing back at the government, after reports emerged over threats and a confidential letter about Cypriot golden passports a decade earlier.
AKEL general secretary Andros Kyprianou says on two separate occasions, during private meetings at the Presidential Palace, he felt President Nicos Anastasiades was attempting to blackmail him over citizenships awarded between 2008 and 2012 during the Christofias administration.
“He was pointing to a stack of papers and told me to stop talking about the programme,” Kyprianou said on state radio Friday morning.
Confidential letter said to contain old dirt
The comments came a day after Government spokesperson Kyriacos Koushos cautioned Kyprianou saying the opposition leader failed to take seriously a confidential letter that had been sent by President Anastasiades to all political party leaders. Reports said the letter included “old dirt” on passports awarded by the previous administration.
The feud between Kyprianou and Koushos exploded on Thursday, after the Akel leader publicly criticized a recent decision by the President’s Cabinet to task Interior Minister Nicos Nouris with delegating a new golden passport probe to Attorney General George Savvides, a former Cabinet member.
AKEL sees conflict of interest in new probe
Kyprianou said there was a conflict of interest regarding Savvides, who was serving as justice minister back in November 2019 when the president’s cabinet assigned a different three-member committee to look into specific investors who were awarded citizenship.
Anastasiades appointed Savvides to the attorney general position in late June 2020, along with former defence minister Savvas Angelides who became deputy attorney general.
Auditor General sidelined
Koushos said the administration did not see a conflict of interest but left the issue to be addressed by the attorney general himself, who has been asked to draft the terms of a new three-member committee to comb through citizenships awarded to wealthy foreigners from 2008 through July 2020, including the Cyprus Citizenship by Investment programme introduced in 2013 in the aftermath of the country's financial bailout.
Earlier this week, a request by Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides to receive documents to examine whether tax issues had been properly addressed within the programme were denied by the government, arguing the audit office was overstepping its authority.
Private meetings before and after Al Jazeera story
But Koushos denied the President had ever threatened Kyprianou, who said he was blackmailed by Anastasiades once a few months ago, before Al Jazeera reported on the “Cyprus Papers” and a second time a few weeks ago, after a series of reports was published following months of investigation based on leaked documents.
Kyprianou said he thought the President was trying to blackmail him, saying Anastasiades had told him “I, too, have a stack of papers.”
Kyprianou said he would not reveal names in the confidential letter nor would he be willing to publish it even after Koushos dared him to do so.
“It’s up to them, the administration sent the letter and now we are trying to talk in vague terms, I can’t respond to that. They should, in fact, they ought to make the letter public,” Kyprianou said, accusing the president of employing “unacceptable and immoral tactics.”
Kyprianou implicates president's former law firm
But the Akel secretary also hinted at the President’s former law firm in Limassol, suggesting some applicants who got passports during the Christofias administration, including Russian nationals implicated in the US election scandal, had been represented by the legal firm.
“Someone had to be bribed at the time,” Kyprianou said, adding that he was not afraid to have the letter with names published in the media.
Kyprianou said Koushos’ reference to the confidential letter was meant to serve as a warning to the Akel general secretary.
“Absolutely not,” Koushios said, adding that Anastasiades was trying to persuade Kyprianou to stop badmouthing the investment programme.
Reports said the letter contained names that could potentially do more harm than good for the country.
The Republic of Cyprus says mistakes were made throughout the programme but insists the scheme is now under stricter rules.