Growing chorus of calls for Syllouris to resign (Updated)

Growing chorus of calls for Syllouris to resign (Updated)

Embattled House president Demetris Syllouris said Wednesday he will not object to having his parliamentary immunity lifted as part of an investigation into potential malfeasance after he appeared to offer his help to a Chinese businessman with a criminal record secure citizenship through the island’s investment programme.

 

Embattled House president Demetris Syllouris said Wednesday he will not object to having his parliamentary immunity lifted as part of an investigation into potential malfeasance after he appeared to offer his help to a Chinese businessman with a criminal record secure citizenship through the island’s investment programme.

Syllouris made public a letter to the attorney-general saying he would not raise any objection if a request was made at the supreme court to lift his immunity as calls for his resignation grew.

The House president found himself in hot water after a video filmed by undercover Al Jazeera showed him offering help to an imaginary Chinese businessman with a criminal record secure citizenship.

The video forced the government to terminate the programme in its current form, but not before processing existing applications, around 700, and any others filed before the November 1 deadline.

Syllouris has refused to resign and instead said he would be abstaining from his duties starting Monday and pending the investigation.

Akel MP Christakis Giovanis, who is also a developer, was forced to give up his seat and his place in the party after he was seen in the same video.

Prominent Famagusta lawyer Andreas Pittadjis was seen offering advice on how to skirt the programmes criteria.

All three have denied any wrongdoing, claiming entrapment. The video was filmed in October 2019.

The trio said they had reported the case to the anti-money laundering unit, Mokas, after realising the prospective investor was up to no good.

However, Mokas said the report, lodged on October 29, 2019, did not reveal a financial transaction nor there was anything in it which fell under the unit’s remit.

“In the present case, according to the letter’s contents, no suspicious financial transaction had been submitted,” Mokas said in a statement, adding that it was not its job to scrutinise clients on behalf of service providers.

Central bank governor Constantinos Herodotou said on Wednesday he has asked banks under his supervision to investigate whether any money laundering provisions had been violated. Herodotou said he had asked for a probe in August when Al Jazeera published its first expose on the island’s investment programme, based on leaked confidential documents.

He said he has asked banks to include the information aired in the video in their probe.

On Wednesday, ruling Disy added its voice in the chorus of parties asking Syllouris to step down.

It took the party a couple of days to join the majority of the public, which have been expressing their disgust since Monday when the video aired.

“The government rightly, having no other option, decided on termination of the programme,” Disy deputy chief Harris Georgiades said. “The attorney-general correctly gave instructions for a full and swift investigation of the case. We expect that the House president will act in a similar way and assist the effort to restore the prestige of the institutions. His voluntary departure is the only way to go.”

Akel too has asked for Syllouris’ resignation, but only after Giovanis announced his resignation from the party on Tuesday.

Akel leader Andros Kyprianou asked Syllouris on Wednesday to step down in a bid to safeguard respect towards the institutions and facilitate procedures.

In a letter to Syllouris, Kyprianou said Syllouris could not suspend himself as if he was a civil servant.

“There are many issues and they are not legal in my view,” Kyprianou said later. “They are political and institutional issues and they should be handled that way.”

Kyprianou said corruption had no ideology but each party had a history in such matters.

“So, I do not accept that all the parties are the same as regards tackling corruption,” he said.

Kyprianou said he has also written to the interior minister asking him to grant the auditor-general access to files relating to the programme that the government has so far refused to hand over.

In the letter, the leader of Akel highlights the public outcry following the revelations and stresses the need for the auditor to be given access to all files for an objective and thorough probe.

Green party MP Giorgos Perdikis said he intended to ask parliament to freeze the programme immediately and not wait until November 1.

“The government is mocking us concerning the citizenship programme. The government cannot say the programme is terminated after November 1 but those interested can apply by then.”

The programme must freeze immediately and if the government does not do it Perdikis said he would be submitting a proposal in the next session.

 

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