As published on financialmirror.com, Tuesday 21 March, 2023.
Main opposition party AKEL is stepping up pressure for investigations into the involvement of ex-President Nicos Anastasiades’ former law office in the golden passport scheme following an indictment handed by the Cyprus Bar Association.
In a written statement, AKEL spokesperson George Koukoumas said that the result of the recent presidential elections do not erase scandals involving the Anastasiades’ administration and his party, the right-wing DISY.
As reported by local media, the Bar Association has handed the law firm “Nicos Chr. Anastasiades” and the private company Imperium Services Limited an indictment for seven offenses following the association’s audit of a number of law firms’ involvement in the now terminated golden passports’ scheme.
“This development reminds everyone of the institutional corruption during the former President’s rule and his involvement in the passport scandal,” said the AKEL spokesperson.
“Nicos Anastasiades’ party (DISY), the (Nikos) Christodoulides administration and the parties that participate in it must take a stand,” fired Koukoumas referring to the investigation of the Bar Association.
“Will Nicos Anastasiades be held accountable or not for the institutional corruption that has humiliated the country worldwide,” he continued.
President Anastasiades has repeatedly insisted that he was uninvolved with his former office from the days he stepped up his involvement in politics.
Anastasiades has said that he had offloaded his remaining shares in the firm when he became president of Cyprus in 2013.
He has also argued in the past that he has not had any active role in the firm when he was the leader of the Democratic Rally (DISY), between 1997 and 2013.
Earlier on Monday, local media reported that an indictment for seven offenses was handed to the law firm carrying the former President’s name.
AKEL-affiliated news site Dialogos reported that the Bar Association’s Vice President George Christophides confirmed that the law firm has been handed an indictment.
As the news outlet reported, Christophides said that the investigation concerns offenses related to the due diligence procedures regarding the origin of the investment funds and the risk profile of the client or investor.
Politis newspaper also ran the story, noting that the law firm carrying the former president’s name was under investigation by the Bar Association, and that the firm is among 26 being audited in relation to the golden passport scheme.
Politis reported that the indictment alleges that the firm has not carried out proper due diligence in the processing of a number of applications for the acquisition of Cypriot citizenship by foreign investors.
The outlet reports that the indictment was put together by four investigating officers appointed by the association.
Investigating officers randomly selected seven files of a total of 57 cases handled by the law firm from 2013, when Nicos Anastasiades was first elected president of the Republic.
Investigating officers audited the files at the firm, looking into whether the applicants were politically exposed individuals, or had convictions in other countries, while also looking into the investors’ source of funds.
As Politis reports, the first phase of the Bar Association’s probe has been completed with the indictment handed to the law firm, which is obliged to submit a response.
The association’s disciplinary board will then convene to review the firm’s response and paperwork submitted, to decide whether any disciplinary offenses have taken place.
The process is a disciplinary one, and the powers of the Cyprus Bar Association are purely supervisory. The body cannot impose criminal charges.
Out of the 26 Cypriot law firms that have been audited by the Cyprus Bar Association in connection with the disgraced golden passport scheme, five were found guilty and slapped with non-compliance fines of €200,000.
Nicosia began offering citizenship in exchange for substantial investment as early as 2007; the scheme was stepped up following the 2013 banking crisis and economic collapse.
The passport scheme was scrapped in a hurry in November 2020 following the damaging fallout from an Al Jazeera gotcha video, portraying high level officials ready to sell passports to investors with a dodgy past.
Following the allegations, the government commissioned former judge Myron Nicolatos to conduct an enquiry.
It found that the government broke the law countless times to grant citizenship to over 6,700 people from 2007 to 2020.
The damning report said that over half (53%) of the 6,779 passports granted were done so illegally, encouraged by a due diligence vacuum or insufficient background checks.
Under the scheme, the government granted a passport for an investment of €2.5 mln. Cyprus’ passport scheme generated over €8 bln during its lifespan.