Cyprus CBI Influence Peddling Trial Defendants Plead Not Guilty

Former Cypriot House President Demetris Syllouris and former Akel MP Christakis Giovanis pleaded not guilty to five charges brought against them in what has become infamously known as the “Golden Passport Trial.”

The charges – which include conspiracy to defraud the state and exerting undue influence over public officials – are based on the findings of the Nicolatos Report, which officials carried out shortly after the release of Al Jazeera’s Cyprus Papers in August 2020

During a courtroom appearance on the 19th of December, Syllouris and Giovanis, two out of three defendants, denied the Law Office’s charges against them. 

Giovanis’ lawyer, George Papaioannou, argued that the charges brought against his client were “not soundly based on any existing law,” but the court rejected his objections.

Papaioannou, alongside Syllouris’ lawyer, Chris Triantafyllides, informed the court that they would reserve their right to bring up the issue later in the official proceedings. 

Triantafyllides informed the court that he would request the attorney general release any witness material and transcripts used to prepare the Nicolatos Report.

The third defendant, Antonis Antoniou, a senior member of Giovanis Group, was not charged due to being abroad at the time of the hearing. The court gave Antoniou a new court date on the 18th of January to make his plea. Antoniou is represented by Andreas Pittadjis, who was himself a defendant alongside the others before prosecutors dropped all charges against him in October, allowing him to make the switch from defendant to legal representative.

The Cyprus CBI scandal story so far

The “Golden Passports Trial” is the culmination of a contentious saga surrounding the erstwhile Cypriot Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP).

The CIP’s troubles arguably started with a damning MONEYVAL report in February 2020, which labeled the program as a threat to the financial integrity of Cyprus’ financial structure. 

Two months later, the EU sent a letter to Cyprus (as well as Malta and Bulgaria) reiterating calls for phasing out its CIP. Unbeknownst to Cyprus, this courteous approach would rapidly turn antagonistic as the year progressed.

However, Cyprus’ government did head the warning signs, if somewhat lackadaisically, and introduced changes to its CIP in June 2020 to ensure that, in Interior Minister Nikos Nouris’ own words, the program would “no longer be ridiculed.”

A message from our partners
Middle East Road Show Ad

Nouris claimed the changes would put the program beyond reproach and strongly refuted “rumors spread by some at various times that the Republic of Cyprus abused this program.”

It seems, however, that Nouris wasn’t aware that Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera had taken a strong interest in the CIP and that his statements would prove to have aged poorly already by the end of the year.

In August 2020, Al Jazeera released its Cyprus Papers report series, which appeared to show several of the defendants in today’s ongoing trial engaged in influence-peddling and possible corruption. The TV report would turn out to have damning consequences for the CIP. The Cypriot government retaliated with responses that took on geopolitical tones, but the damage was done, and the axe would soon fall.

Two months after the release of the Cyprus Papers, the European Commission launched infringement procedures against Cyprus (and Malta) by issuing letters of formal notice regarding their investor citizenship schemes. Malta would eventually go to court against the European Commission, in a case observers expect the European Court of Justice to hear this year. For Cyprus, however, the idea of testing the matter in court would soon become a moot point:

On the 13th of October, The Cypriot government announced it would officially close its program on the 1st of November, 2020. It also revealed that three investigative teams would be probing alleged misdeeds concerning the CIP.

The closure of one of the world’s most popular CIPs came as a shock and was unsurprisingly accompanied by a considerable rush of last-ditch applications during the 18 days between the announcement and closure dates. 

The program would receive 105 investor applications and 311 dependent applications during that period, accounting for nearly a quarter of a billion euros worth of CIP applications in fewer than three weeks.

The substantial amount of FDI would do little to mitigate the situation, though, as the government tasked ex-justice Myron Nicolatos (the Nicolatos Report’s creator) with investigating dealings within its CIP from its establishment to its end.

Nicolatos would deliver a detailed 780-page report, eventually leading to the case dubbed the Golden Passport Trial.

Other articles related to this story:

Become an IMI Pro today

For committed professionals
Monthly €99 or €840 per year (30% discount)
  • Get Your IMI Pro profile page in IMI
  • Access to IMI Data Center
  • Access to IMI Private Briefings
  • Unlimited articles
  • IMI Citizenship Catalog
  • IMI Reports included
  • Watch members-only interviews
  • Advance invitation to IMI Events

Explore IMI’s Tools and Resources

>> See all IMI tools and resources

Ahmad Abbas AdministratorAuthorSubscriberParticipant
Director of Content Services , Investment Migration Insider

Ahmad Abbas is Director of Content Services at Investment Migration Insider and an 8-year veteran of the investment migration industry.

follow me