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Cyprus abolishes ‘golden passports’ scheme after Al Jazeera’s Investigation

The Cyprus government has abolished the Cyprus Investment Programme, or ‘golden passport’ scheme following an Al Jazeera investigation that exposed Cypriot politicians engaged in planning to help a criminal buy an EU passport. 

The President of the House of Representatives, Demetris Syllouris, who was implicated in The Cyprus Papers Undercover, is abstaining from duties pending a government investigation. A member of the parliament, Christakis Giovani has also resigned from his position as an MP and will step down from all other positions held within his party.

Cyprus’ Attorney General, George Savvidis announced a criminal investigation into evidence revealed in the documentary. “What has been published in the last few hours by the Al Jazeera news network is causing outrage, anger and concern among the people.”

“I have given clear instructions to the Police Leadership from the outset to conduct a full, thorough and in-depth investigation into the possibility of anyone committing criminal offenses,” Savvidis said in a statement.

Posing as representatives of a fictitious criminal character, the undercover reporters from Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) were ushered through the application process for the Cyprus Investment Programme by lawyers, property agents, leading eventually to high-ranking politicians. 

The evidence reveals a two-track application process where “problematic” applicants pay more money to acquire passports. In August, the I-Unit released The Cyprus Papers, a leak of 1400 documents, which identified high-risk individuals including criminals and politically exposed persons who acquired Cypriot citizenship through the investment scheme. .

“Cyprus’ passport by investment scheme has facilitated criminals from around the world to access Europe and launder the proceeds of their crime. In The Cyprus Papers Undercover, we showed in granular detail how a convicted money launderer can invest in Cyprus and even change his name to evade his criminal past,” said Phil Rees, the network’s Director of Investigative Journalism.

“Global corruption is one of the most important and yet ignored stories of our age. Exposing it is part of the core DNA of the I-Unit,” added Rees.