The trial of four individuals accused of facilitating the acquisition of Cypriot Golden Passports for foreign nationals in exchange for bribes will begin on October 11th. Among the defendants are former House President Demetris Syllouris and former Akel MP and developer Christakis Giovani. Two lawyers, Antonis Antoniou and Andreas Pittadjis, are also facing criminal charges in connection with the scheme. Currently, the first three defendants have been released on €50,000 bail each, while the fourth is on €30,000 bail.
The allegations against these individuals came to light in 2020 when Al Jazeera aired a documentary called the "Cyprus Papers." In the documentary, an Al Jazeera reporter posed as a Chinese criminal seeking assistance to obtain a Golden Passport in exchange for bribes, to which all four defendants reportedly agreed.
Subsequent investigations by the Cyprus Audit Office revealed significant financial losses to the country due to foreigners obtaining Golden Passports without making any investments. These losses resulted from the illegal use of reduced VAT rates and the unauthorized granting of Cypriot citizenship to individuals who were not qualified investors.
The revelations sparked a scandal in Cyprus and the European Union, leading Cyprus to terminate the Golden Passport scheme. Furthermore, Cyprus revoked the Cypriot nationality of several Golden passport holders following necessary investigations. It is estimated that over 200 beneficiaries have had their Golden passports revoked out of nearly 7,000 individuals who benefited from the program between 2007 and 2020.
The Golden Passport program allowed wealthy foreigners to acquire Cypriot citizenship and passports by making a minimum contribution of €2.5 million and fulfilling additional criteria. While the scheme significantly boosted Cyprus' economy, it predominantly attracted Chinese and Russian investors and was frequently associated with corruption, tax evasion, and money laundering.
The upcoming trial is a significant development in the effort to address the issues surrounding the Golden Passport scheme and hold those involved accountable for any wrongdoing. It reflects Cyprus' commitment to transparency and the rule of law in its citizenship and residency programs.
By fLEXI tEAM