Passport scandal in Southern Cyprus
The passport scandal has unseated the Greek Cypriot parliament president. Greek Cypriot Parliament Speaker Dimitris Shiluris, who was found to have given passports to criminal foreigners, resigned.
It has been revealed that top Greek Cypriot officials are behind many corruption cases in the so-called 'citizenship-for-investment' practice, which is called 'golden passport' in EU member Southern Cyprus. Al Jazeera television broadcast undercover footage showing that the President of the Greek Cypriot Parliament Dimitris Shilluris and MP Hristakis Giovani were instrumental in the issuance of 'Republic of Cyprus', that is, EU Passports to Chinese criminals in exchange for investment.
In the "Cyprus Papers" program, an Al Jazeera reporter posed as a representative of a wealthy Chinese businessman serving a 7-year prison sentence for money laundering and bribery and arranged a meeting with Greek Cypriot Member of Parliament Christakis Giovani. Giovani promised to allow him to move freely in the EU in exchange for investing 20 million dollars in his projects.
Dimitris Shilluris, the President of the Parliament of the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus, stated that he knows other heads of parliaments in the EU and said, "I will help you to get a passport from them. There are various methods such as changing names and laundering through spouses." The price of illegally providing Golden Passports to those with criminal records in the country starts at 5 million euros and goes up to 10-20 million euros depending on the nature of the criminal record. The Council of Ministers of the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus canceled the citizenship granting program as of November 1 yesterday after the scandal broke.
Shilluris also explained his 'tricks' in secret footage.
PASSPORTS FOR MAFIA, BRIBERS
The names given 'golden passports' by the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus have a long track record. Here are some of those names:
MYKOLA ZLOCHEVSKY: Owner of the giant Ukrainian Burisma energy company. Investigated for corruption in Ukraine. He offered prosecutors 6 million dollars to complete the investigation.
NIKOLAY GORNOVSKY: Former boss of energy giant Gazprom. Accused by the Russian government of "abuse of office".
ALI BEGLOV: Citizen of the Russian Federation. He was imprisoned for extortion.
ZHANG KEQIANG: Chinese businessman jailed for a fraudulent stock deal.
PHAM NHAT VU: Vietnamese businessman accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes in a telecommunications deal. He is currently in jail.
GONZALEZ DELLAN: A former Venezuelan banker. Sentenced by the US for illegal money transactions on behalf of the Venezuelan government.
OLEF BAKHMATIUK: Under investigation in Ukraine for embezzlement and money laundering.
ALEXEI AND DMITRY ANANIEV: Russian brothers accused of embezzlement from a bank they owned.
LI JIADIONG: Chinese national, jailed in the US for money laundering.
EU COMMISSION TO REVIEW
The news that Greek Cypriots in Southern Cyprus also provide passports to criminals has mobilized the European Union circles. EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders stated that they are considering launching an investigation against the Greek Cypriots in Southern Cyprus and that they may also consider a legal regulation. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said "EU values are not for sale" and signaled that they might take the matter to the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
ANASTASIADIS NAME ALSO EMBROILED IN SCANDAL
The Greek Cypriot newspaper Haravgi also announced that the petitions of 353 of the foreigners who applied to obtain citizenship by taking advantage of the program were made through the offices where the members of the Council of Ministers were connected. The newspaper wrote that the most well-known of the offices registered in the Cyprus Investment Program Service Provision Register is the law office with which the President of the Greek Cypriot Administration, Nikos Anastaiadis, is affiliated and has the largest share in the market. Those linked to the offices providing this service were Greek Cypriot Administration Spokesperson Kyriakos Kusios, Justice Minister Emiliu Yoliti, former Transport Minister Marios Dimitriadis, former Defense Minister and Deputy Chief Prosecutor Savvas Angelidis and Energy Minister Natasha Pilidu.
Dimitris Shilluris, the Speaker of the Greek Cypriot Parliament, resigned from his post following the scandal that erupted over "golden passports".
Shilluris argued that he did not violate the law. He called what happened a "conspiracy".
Shilluris had said a day earlier that he would not resign.
A large number of official documents obtained by Al Jazeera revealed that convicted fraudsters, money launderers and politicians accused of corruption from more than 70 countries received citizenship certificates from the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus, described as "golden passports".
The broadcasting organization's news titled "Cyprus Documents" is based on more than 1,400 passport applications approved by the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus in 2017-2019.