by Oleg Burunov
On Tuesday, the Сypriot government scrapped a “golden passport” citizenship-through-investment scheme, in operation since 2013, following an Al Jazeera probe into the issue.
Cyprus’ parliamentary speaker Demetris Syllouris reportedly resigned on Thursday amid the country’s ongoing “golden passport”-related scheme scandal.
The lawmaker’s move comes as the government’s spokesman Kyriakos Kousios said on Tuesday that Cyprus had canceled its program that stipulated granting citizenship in exchange for investment.
“At today’s extraordinary session of the council of ministers, ministers of finance and interior affairs proposed to cancel this investment program. The proposal was based on long-term drawbacks and abuse of the Cyprus investment program. The decision will enter force on 1 November, 2020”, Kousios pointed out.
This was preceded by Syllouris apologising in a written statement earlier on Tuesday and stating that he would withdraw from his duties from 19 October until the end of an Al Jazeera investigation into his alleged role in violations of the Cyprus Investment Program.
The project envisages granting full citizenship to wealthy individuals who invest at least 2.2 million euros ($2.6 million) into the country.
The decision to scrap the scheme came on the heels of allegations that Syllouris and a veteran lawmaker had been caught red-handed trading European citizenship for money.
The claims were contained in an hour-long report The Cyprus Papers Undercover, by Al Jazeera’s investigative unit.
The journalists were believed to have used hidden cameras to show Syllouris, and lawmaker Christakis Giovanis promising “full support” to granting a passport to a fictitious Chinese investor, despite having been convicted of being a money launderer.
European Commission spokesman Christian Wigand, for his part, pledged that the EU’s executive body would decide whether infringement proceedings against Cyprus might be launched.
“We watched in disbelief how high-level officials were trading European citizenship for financial gains,” Wigand said, adding that “European values are not for sale”.