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Cyprus Golden Passport Case Unveiled by Al Jazeera to Be Refiled

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Nicosia criminal court has suspended the trial into a case related to the country’s Golden Passport scandal, which was unveiled in an investigation by Al Jazeera, following a change in the composition of the court.

The new announcement means that all four defendants: former House President Demetris Syllouris, former Akel MP Christakis Giovani, lawyer Andreas Pittajis as well as Giovani Group executive Antonis Antoniou have been acquitted of all the charges that they had been facing, for the time being, reports.

According to the representative of the prosecution Elli Papagapiou, the current case “could not continue” as a result of the change in the court’s composition.

“The criminal case must be suspended and a new one filed,” Papagapiou pointed out.

Local media reports said that a new charge sheet will have to be filed to Nicosia criminal court, which will contain the same charges, taking into account conspiracy to defraud the country, and influencing a public official in going against a law that ratifies the Council of Europe Convention on the Criminalisation of Corruption.

In the previous hearing, Deputy Attorney General Savvas Angelides, raised the issue of this case being examined following a new composition, after the current composition of the court would change on June 30, while the new Court of Appeals is expected to officially start working on July 1, this year.

According to the Cyprus News Agency, the refilling of the case will take place in the following days, while court proceeding is not expected to start before September this year.

The Golden Passport Scheme permitted foreign citizens who invested a specific amount of money in Cyprus to acquire citizenship. However, it was terminated following an Al Jazeera report that revealed several illegal affairs in which the program was involved, thus leading authorities in this country to terminate it as soon as possible.

In May this year, a professional body of over 2,700 advocate members, known as the Cyprus Bar Association, began inspections of 26 law firms in this country, of which 16 were found guilty and subject to fines.

In addition, in April this year, the country’s authorities announced that they revoked passports from three investors who acquired citizenship in Cyprus through the Citizenship by Investment Scheme, known as the Golden Passports Program.

At present, several European countries offer third-country nationals to acquire residency and citizenship through the Golden Visa and Golden Passport programs. However, EU authorities have often criticised these schemes, urging the countries to terminate them, following their involvement in illegal acts.