CYPRUS: President denies preferential treatment in passport scheme.

As published on cyprus-mail.com, Tuesday 2 February, 2021.

President Nicos Anastasiades suggested Tuesday the cabinet’s approval of citizenship applications was basically a formality after they went through the interior ministry and other checks.

Anastasiades, who was testifying in inquiry into the controversial citizenship by investment programme, said the cabinet received a synopsis of the applications after they had been cleared by the interior ministry. The synopsis did not include names, nor who the promoters were.

He told the four-member panel that the cabinet could not turn into an audit committee and its members could not be expected to check all the procedures of each application.

Anastasiades said there was a series of checks by various services, be it banks, ministries, and the anti-money laundering unit.

The president denied showing a Saudi investor preferential treatment, adding that he had invested more than he ought to be eligible for citizenship,

Through the citizenship by investment scheme, the Saudi owner and 38 other individuals – family members and friends – received Cypriot passports, an audit service probe had found.

The auditor-general launched a probe into the affair after it transpired that the presidency had used a private jet to travel to New York for the UN General Assembly in September 2019.

It later emerged that the owner had been granted Cypriot citizenship in 2015.

According to the auditor’s report, a joint citizenship application had been filed by the owner of the jet, two siblings and three other individuals.

“These individuals were granted Cypriot citizenship with a cabinet decision dated January 14, 2015,” the report said. “Along with the six individuals, citizenship was granted to 36 members of their families (spouses and children), 19 of which were members of the families of the three brothers.”

It later emerged that the president had used the Saudi investor’s jet to fly to the Seychelles for a holiday with his family.

The aircraft was also used to fly the president to EU meetings,

Anastiasiades said the state saved close to €1m because of this, and criticised the way investors like the Saudi businessman and others had been treated recently.