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Cypriot parliament speaker resigns in wake of passport scheme scandal

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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 is the second highest-ranking state official of Cyprus, and was deputising as acting president in the absence of President Nicos Anastasiades.

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.

A woman walks in front of a placard reading ‘Enough’ during a protest against corruption in Nicosia, Cyprus, 14 October 2020. Hundreds of people gathered outside the Filoxenia Conference Center, currently hosting the Parliament, to protest and demand the resignation of the President of the Parliament, Demetris Syllouris who appeared in an undercover video of Al Jazeera offering to help a foreign businessman with a criminal record to acquire a Cyprus passport. EPA-EFE/KATIA CHRISTODOULOU

A lawmaker for 28 years and speaker since 2011, 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. In the documentary, he is 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.

The documentary was aired on Oct. 12, triggering public outrage and forcing authorities to suspend a lucrative citizenship for investment programme. 

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