Cypriot parliament speaker resigns over passport scheme scandal
The speaker of Cyprus’s parliament resigned on Thursday in the wake of a cash-for-passports scandal which has embarrassed authorities in the EU member state.
Demetris Syllouris, 67, was filmed secretly as part of Al Jazeera’s The Cyprus Papers Undercover, an investigation that revealed how criminals were able to obtain Cypriot passports, granting them access to the European Union and its internal markets.
Syllouris is the second-highest-ranking state official of Cyprus and was deputizing as acting president in the absence of President Nicos Anastasiades.
His resignation follows Christakis Giovanis, Cyprus’ MP, who quit on Tuesday, hours after Cyprus announced it would abolish its controversial scheme.
Syllouris has denied any wrongdoing, saying any comments were taken out of context.
“I firmly believe that in no way have I broken the law,” Syllouris said in a statement.
However, in the documentary, he was filmed discussing with a fixer – the undercover reporter – ways and workarounds for the supposed Chinese investor to acquire a passport. The imaginary investor had a criminal record, which in itself should have disqualified an applicant.
Weeks earlier, Al Jazeera released The Cyprus Papers, a cache of almost 1,400 documents showing Cyprus had granted passports to criminals convicted in their home countries and people wanted by Interpol in the previous years.