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Suspects to face trial in October for Cypriot passport scandal | Investigation Information


The previous president of the Cypriot parliament, Demetris Syllouris, and three others will face a prison trial subsequent month over a “cash-for-passports” scandal uncovered by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, a courtroom has dominated.

The 4, who appeared on Monday on the district courtroom within the capital, Nicosia, face 5 corruption expenses, together with conspiracy to defraud the state and untoward affect over public officers. The trial date on the prison courtroom was set for October 26.

Moreover Syllouris, the opposite three defendants are Christakis Giovanis, a former member of parliament and property developer for the Giovani Group; Antonis Antoniou, the Giovani Group’s government director; and lawyer Andreas Pittadjis.

They deny any wrongdoing.

On the finish of the 25-minute listening to, Syllouris, Giovanis and Antoniou have been launched on a 50,000-euro ($50,600) bail every. Pittadjis’s bail was set at 30,000 euros ($30,400), in keeping with the Cyprus Information Company.

The fees adopted Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation and the findings of an official inquiry prompted by the revelations, Cyprus authorities mentioned.

Cyprus Funding Programme

The “golden passports” scandal was uncovered in The Cyprus Papers Undercover, an Al Jazeera investigation launched in October 2020.

Within the documentary, all 4 males advised an undercover reporter posing because the consultant of a fictitious Chinese language prison that they have been keen to assist him get hold of a Cypriot passport and change into a citizen of the European Union – for a worth.

They mentioned they’d assist him purchase a passport by the Cyprus Funding Programme. Underneath the scheme, passports could possibly be issued for a minimal 2.15 million euros ($2.5m on the time) funding.

Nevertheless, convicted criminals have been formally barred from making use of, which might have disqualified the fictional Chinese language shopper.

Syllouris, then president of the Cypriot parliament, advised the undercover reporters that their prison boss would have his “full help”.

He mentioned: “You may inform him that he can have, with out mentioning my title or anyone else’s, full help from Cyprus. At any stage – political, financial, social, all the pieces.”

Requested if the prison applicant would obtain a passport, he mentioned: “I can not say 100% however I say 99 %.”

Pittadjis mentioned the shopper’s title could possibly be modified on the passport, giving him a very new identification, and making his prison file undetectable.

This could enable a prison to maneuver cash and journey by the EU with out elevating alarm.

When the reporters requested Pittadjis if he had beforehand modified a shopper’s title for a passport, he replied, laughing: “In fact, that is Cyprus!”

Giovanis mentioned he would do all the pieces he might to get a passport for the Chinese language prison. “It’s not simple. However I can promise, we will do the most effective. And I imagine we have now the expertise,” he mentioned.

Antoniou mentioned the Chinese language prison ought to make investments as much as 20 million euros ($20.2m) in Cyprus to profit from “extra beneficial” phrases.  “You may ‘skip the ready record’, as we are saying,” he mentioned.

The documentary despatched shock waves by the Mediterranean island. Inside days of its launch, the passport scheme was scrapped, Syllouris and Giovanis resigned, and the EU, Cypriot authorities and police launched investigations.

1000’s protested towards corruption outdoors the parliament constructing in Nicosia.

EU passports are prized by many from outdoors the bloc, together with Asia, the Center East and Africa, and from nations reminiscent of Russia and Ukraine.

A Cypriot passport provides the holder the fitting to stay, work and journey within the 27 EU member states and to get pleasure from visa-free entry to greater than 170 nations.

The Cyprus Papers

Earlier than The Cyprus Papers Undercover was broadcast, the Investigative Unit launched The Cyprus Papers, a trove of greater than 2,000 leaked purposes for the Cypriot passport programme.

The paperwork confirmed that between 2017 and 2019, Cyprus had accredited passports for greater than 30 individuals who have been below prison investigation, worldwide sanctions or serving jail sentences.

An extra 40 candidates held delicate political or state positions, which meant they have been thought-about a severe danger for bribery or cash laundering below EU pointers.

A 2021 Cyprus inquiry into the citizenship scheme discovered that 53 % of the 6,779 citizenships granted between 2007 and 2020 – the overwhelming majority of them to Russians – have been illegal.

The Cyprus exposé was a part of a wider investigation that confirmed how a rich prison might purchase an English soccer membership and use it to launder the proceeds of crime, helped by “enablers” who might cover his wealth and alter his identification – with a brand new passport.

The undercover reporters have been led to Cyprus by Keith Hunter, a personal investigator and former Scotland Yard detective, who mentioned he had contacts on the island who might assist the prison shopper get hold of an EU passport.

The Investigative Unit’s documentary The Males Who Promote Soccer was launched in August 2021 and picked up a string of United Kingdom and worldwide awards and a BAFTA nomination in 2022. The Cyprus Papers Undercover was nominated for a BAFTA the earlier yr.




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