A number of reporters will be allowed from now on to attend ongoing probe hearings into alleged corruption in connection with Cyprus’ disgraced Citizenship by Investment Programme, with journalists being asked to commit in advance not to breach data privacy laws.
According to local media, the independent investigative committee probing citizenships by exception in the Republic of Cyprus, including naturalizations of investors and family members through so-called golden passports, has decided to allow 15 journalists to attend hearings starting on Tuesday, when former finance minister Harris Georgiades will be called to testify at 12 noon.
President Nicos Anastasiades and Archbishop Chrysostomos are among those expected to testify in later sessions.
'The attorney general is a subject in the probe and he suggested to the Cabinet tripling the pay for the committee that is investigating him'
Reporters are also being told they won’t be allowed to record images or audio of any hearings, according to guidelines issued by the committe, adding that journalists will be told to observe national and Europan privacy laws.
Following criticism in the media over all previous sessions that had been closed to reporters, the committee said it had wanted to allow journalists to attend from the very beginning but “it was unfortunately not possible, at first, to hold open hearings due to restrictions for the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic but also due to health measures.”
A partial lockdown and extended health measures remain in place through the end of the month in the Republic of Cyprus.
So far only Interior Minister Nikos Nouris testified in the room where hearings take place, while Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides -who also served previously as interior minister- testified in his office building, according to information released by the committee last week.
Others who appeared before the committee via teleconference included Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides, Interior ministry CIP supervisor Christina Kaoulla, former interior ministers Socrates Hasikos, Eleni Mavrou, and Neocles Silikiotis, as well as Cabinet secretary Theodosis Tchiolas and his predecessors Giorgos Georgiou and Andreas Moleskis.
The opening of sessions comes as political opposition is crying foul over a recent Cabinet decision to increase pay for the members of the committee while proceedings are still ongoing.
A representative from DIKO centre party, Athos Antoniades, cited both legal and ethical concerns over the move, saying it was suggested by Attorney General George Savvides, a former member of the Cabinet when he served as justice minister last year.
“The attorney general is also a subject in the probe and he suggested tripling the pay for the committee that is investigating him,” Antoniades pointed out.