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Politics

Cypriot Police Probing Al Jazeera, Corruption in Golden Visa Scheme Video

As Cyprus is set on Nov. 1 to end its Golden Visa scheme selling residency and citizenship to rich foreign investors, police are probing whether politicians caught in a video sting broke laws, but also how the news site Al Jazeera got its hands on the list of them.

The government of President Nicos Anastasiades, whose family's law firm helps applicants process visa requests and directs them to properties for sale, has kept the names secret from the public, even after the news site – as did Reuters earlier – revealed some names tied to criminal acts and money laundering.

An angry Anastasiades, ripping Al Jazeera's report, pulled the plug on the program that had brought in 8 billion euros ($9.48 billion) from 3,000 foreigners , mostly Chinese and Russians, who need no heritage ties to the island.

Undercover reporters with hidden cameras and microphones obtained damning footage after talking with high ranking politicians, realtors, and a lawyer, wrote Kathimerini Cyprus about the growing probe in which the government is apparently trying to deflect responsibility and contain political fallout.

House Speaker Demetris Syllouris and former lawmaker Christakis Giovanis, who is also a land developer, resigned after the video revealed them offering to facilitate a visa for someone who said he was a Chinese investor with a criminal record but was only posing for the site.

Indicating the probes were sensitive, police spokesman Christos Andreou wouldn't reveal more but one team of investigators is said is investigating breach of privacy following a complaint filed by Interior Minister Nicos Nouris with the government anxious to keep a lid on the growing scandal.

Andreou said three investigations are going on simultaneously with critics upset that the Interior Ministry won't give documents to Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides, who had put in a request for access to files before the video was released.

The government said that Attorney-General George Savvides has appointed an independent commission to look into alleged corruption but no move has been made against Syllouris or Giovanis despite the video.

Separate from to the three probes, Savvides' instructions for the independent committee cover all passports granted through the Cyprus Investment Program from 2007 through Aug. 27, 2020 but the program is still online urging investors to act fast before it shuts down.

Cypriot media said the two lawmakers have filed complaints of entrapment and breach of their privacy over the video sting, as did a high-powered attorney and civil servant who said they were targeted by the journalists.

Al Jazeera said it had more information but didn't say if it would be released after earlier reporting that more was forthcoming. 

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