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05 December, 2022
 
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Supreme Court settles golden passports legal saga

Bench finds constitution supersedes conflict of interest claims against attorney general and deputy

Newsroom

The Supreme Court in the Republic of Cyprus says a Parliament attempt last year to restrict the attorney general's role in a golden passport probe outcome was unconstitutional, after lawmakers had raised conflicts of interest for the state's chief law enforcer and his deputy.

Back in April 2021, after rigorous debate during a final session before dissolution, the House passed a resolution calling on Attorney General George Savvides and Deputy Attorney General Savvas Angelides to recuse themselves from the evaluation of an interim report on golden passports, citing potential conflicts of interest. They also called on the officials to submit the probe findings without redactions.

But both Savvides and Angelides quickly filed appeals seeking a motion to rescind the resolution on grounds of being unlawful.

The bench said the attorney general and deputy attorney general both had parens patriae jurisdiction, meaning they are the legal protectors of citizens unable to protect themselves

On Monday, the bench said the attorney general and deputy attorney general both had parens patriae jurisdiction, with the term “parent of the country” loosely meaning they were the legal protectors of citizens unable to protect themselves.

“The Attorney General is the legal consultant of the Republic, with exclusive authority over criminal prosecutions without any constitutional restrictions,” the Supreme Court added, citing the Constitution’s Article 113 in paragraph 2 that afforded the attorney general sole discretion in authorizing criminal prosecutions.

According to the Constitution, the attorney general “shall have power, exercisable at his discretion in the public interest, to institute, conduct, take over and continue or discontinue any proceedings for an offence against any person in the Republic.”

Lawmakers maintained the constitution did not address a gray area where the attorney and deputy attorney may possibly be subjects of an investigation or criminal prosecution.

Savvides previously served as justice minister before becoming the nation’s chief legal advisor, while Angelides was defense minister, with the two men having sat in on various Cabinet meetings during golden passport approvals through the now-disgraced Citizenship by Investment Program.

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