Trial against Al Jazeera golden passports postponed due to backlog in court

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The Nicosia Criminal Court has postponed the judicial proceedings in the ‘Al Jazeera golden passports’ case, originally scheduled for June 10, 2024, until October 2, 2024.

The reason given for the delay is a backlog in the handling of cases. The Court gives priority to cases involving people in detention, such as the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of 31-year-old Angelos Perikleous in April 2023. Three people, including a main suspect, are charged in this case.

To potentially expedite the Al Jazeera trial, the prosecution and defense could meet before October to discuss the admission of certain facts, reducing the need for testimony in court.

One defendant, Andreas Pittadjis, has already obtained part of the investigation report on citizenship irregularities led by Myron Nicolatos.

The case stems from a 2020 Al Jazeera investigative report alleging corruption. Three people have been charged: former Speaker of the House of Representatives Demetris Syllouris, former MP Christakis Giovanis (represented by lawyers Christos Triantafyllides and Giorgos Papaioannou respectively) and a company director, Antonis Antoniou (now represented by Pittadjis after his own acquittal in November 2023) .

The charges include bribery, conspiracy to commit fraud and influence peddling, mainly in connection with the naturalization of foreign investors, including a Chinese businessman mentioned in the Al Jazeera report.

The delay highlights the backlog of cases in Cyprus surrounding allegations of corruption within the citizenship-by-investment program.

A separate case involving Egyptian national Mohamed Salem and his family began in February 2024. Salem acquired Cypriot citizenship by purchasing a €2 million apartment in a building complex in Limassol.

Cyprus’ citizenship-by-investment program – known as the ‘golden passport program’ – was abolished after an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera exposed rampant corruption and after the government approved the issuance of passports to international criminals and fugitives, drawing criticism of the European Union and sparked protests in the country.

The scheme allowed foreigners to acquire a Cypriot passport by investing more than €2 million in the country.

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