Financial Mirror (Cyprus)

Court to rule on first golden passport case


Cyprus justice is close to delivering the first verdict involving Cypriot law firms who allegedly facilitate­d dubious foreign investors acquiring passports via the disgraced citizenshi­p for investment scheme.

Following a lengthy court procedure, the Criminal Court has completed a case involving passports issued to three Iranian investors, with judges set to announce their ruling on 4 November. Four law firms and five individual­s were represente­d in court, including a prominent Larnaca lawyer.

The well-known lawyer, his son and three employees are accused of fraud, plus four companies that provided administra­tive services associated with the law firm.

The case was registered with the courts on May 14, 2021, based on the conclusion of the public probe headed by the former head of the Cyprus Stock Exchange, Demetra Kalogirou.

Kalogirou identified 27 cases of foreign investors who should not have been given a Cypriot passport.

A criminal investigat­ion confirmed that the three Iranians had presented false identity informatio­n to the authoritie­s.

One of the Iranian men - granted citizenshi­p and his parents - had appeared under two names and was wanted by Interpol for fraud and embezzleme­nt.

The Cypriot lawyers allegedly acted as intermedia­ries to subvert the state and illegally secure Cypriot citizenshi­p for the three Iranians.

Although instructio­ns were given to prosecute the three Iranians, locating them and bringing them to justice failed.

One of the cases involved a citizen of the Dominican Republic with Iranian roots, originally called Mehdi Ebrahimi Eshratabad­i, who presented himself as Tony Newman.

Interpol wanted the suspect for embezzling EUR 30 mln from the Iranian Army.

Last month, the Cyprus Bar Associatio­n revealed that the largest law firms lacked due diligence checks on foreign investors granted a Cyprus passport.

Christos Clerides, the head of the Bar Associatio­n, said it reviewed actions taken by 20-25 big law firms while dealing with the naturalisa­tion cases of their clients.

The law firms under the Bar Associatio­n’s microscope were mentioned in at least one of the two public probes.

A damning report put together by a committee headed by former supreme court judge Myron Nikolatos said over half (53%) of the 6,779 passports granted were done so illegally, encouraged by a due diligence vacuum or insufficie­nt background checks.

The citizenshi­ps programme was axed in November 2020 after an undercover Al Jazeera video showed then House speaker Demetris Syllouris and Akel MP Christakis Giovanis offering help to a fictional Chinese businessma­n with a criminal record to secure citizenshi­p.

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