Cyprus' Parliament Speaker Demetris Syllouris resigned after being caught in a secret video discussing ways a Chinese investor with a criminal record could get a Golden Visa residency permit and European Union passport.
Syllouris, who was Acting President in the absence of President Nicos Anastasiades, was the country's second highest-ranking officer and denied any wrongdoing even as he stepped down.
Syllouris, 67, was secretly filmed by the Al Jazeera network talking to an undercover reporter posing as a representative of a Chinese businessman with a criminal record.
Syllouris is shown promising to facilitate the businessman’s passport application even though a criminal conviction is an automatic disqualification, the video adding to the embarrassment of Anastasiades' government which had strongly defended the scheme critics said was open to money laundering and criminals.
A lawmaker for 28 years and speaker since 2011, Syllouris said any comments were taken out of context, reported Reuters, after he earlier suggested he knew he was being played and was going along to make a report to the country's anti-money laundering authorities.
“I firmly believe that in no way have I broken the law,” Syllouris also said in a statement.
In the documentary, he is filmed discussing with a fixer – actually an undercover reporter – ways for the supposed applicant to get a Golden Visa despite having a criminal record.
The revelation also led to a lawmaker quitting and for the government to pull the plug on a lucrative scheme that had brought in some 7 billion euros ($8.2 billion) but had seen more two dozen visas yanked after findings they were granted to people with suspect records.