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14 April, 2021
 
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State budget up in the air over golden passports

Opposition shows teeth over golden passports with DIKO standing on transparency principle

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Opposition parties are cranking up the pressure on Interior Minister Nikos Nouris, who has been refusing to hand over files in connection with the golden passports scandal, with the Democratic Party making good on its promise not to vote the state budget later this month if there is no transparency.

The House watchdog committee on Thursday called on the interior minister to hand over information from 18 files in connection with a casino project, that were initially requested by the Audit Office following shocking revelations over alleged corruption in Cyprus’ golden passports.

Nouris reportedly responded in a letter earlier this week but his intentions remained unclear, with the minister notifying the committee that the information would be delayed due to a long process of putting the data into a readable format. He also cited advice from Attorney General George Savvides, who told the government not to hand over any files and formed a n independent committee to probe the matter.

'We find their behaviour very suspicious, if they don’t have something to hide, why don’t they hand them over?' Papadopoulos said

But centre right DIKO party also kicked things up a notch by reiterating the position that its members would not vote for the state budget on December 17 if the government fails to submit copies of the files to Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides.

DIKO president Nicolas Papadopoulos, who voted for state budgets in previous fiscal years, had been threatening recently not to vote for the 2021 state budget, citing what he described as cover-up efforts by the government over alleged offences linked to the island’s disgraced Citizenship by Investment Programme. The CIP was suspended after Al Jazeera investigative journalists published a series of damning stories and videos on the subject.

"Vote for budget comparable to vote in favour of corruption"

“This is why we remain firm on this issue because we are calling for transparency,” Papadopoulos told state radio Friday morning, adding that a vote in favour of the budget would be comparable to a vote in favour of corruption.

The DIKO head went on to clarify that the party was calling for the auditor general to either be given paper copies of all the information concerning the CIP or at least gain access to information, including 18 files linked to a casino project in Limassol.

“We find their behaviour very suspicious, if they don’t have something to hide, why don’t they hand them over?” Papadopoulos said.

The party leader also said he understood the state budget was a significant issue for the country but reiterated that corruption and money laundering were issues that directly affect the economy and its prospects.

Papadopoulos also criticized ongoing hearings by an independent ad hoc committee over the scandal, saying sessions behind closed doors without reporters in the room was not up to par.

“Under these conditions, we cannot vote for the budget,” he added.

The Parliament of the Republic of Cyprus officially has 80 seats, with 56 functioning seats reserved for Greek Cypriots and 55 members currently set to vote on the budget.

Ruling party DISY has 18 representatives with political pundits saying the budget could draw additional votes from smaller parties, but the real political battle for the administration could be based on convincing individual members to abstain or at least not reject the budget.

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