Cypriot parliament speaker quits after passport scheme scandal

Demetris Syllouris, the Cypriot parliament speaker, has announced he will resign after he was implicated in a scheme that sold passports to criminals through the country’s citizenship through investment programme.

“I note that my continued presence in the position of Head of Parliament has been misunderstood,” Syllouris said in a statement.

“This misunderstanding, and the evident desire by some to take advantage of the whole issue for their own political aims and plans, as well as the pretexts concerning a malfunctioning of the Law making body, have led me to the decision to submit my resignation both from the position of Head of Parliament as well as of member of the parliament,” he continued, adding that he maintained the belief that he had done nothing wrong.

However, under Cypriot law, anyone who is convicted of a crime would be disqualified from obtaining a passport.

Syllouris and Giovani said they would do everything in their power to help, with Syllouris telling our reporter: “You can tell him that he will have, without mentioning my name or anybody else’s, full support from Cyprus. At any level – political, economic, social, everything – ok.”

After Cyprus suspended the citizenship through investment scheme, which has provided the country $8bn since its start in 2013, the attorney general announced an investigation into the scheme.

Weeks earlier, Al Jazeera released The Cyprus Papers

Syllouris’s resignation comes the morning after protesters gathered in front of the parliament building in Nicosia, calling for his removal from office and an official investigation.

Initially, Syllouris said he would abstain from his duties starting October 19, but eventually buckled under growing pressure from protesters, people within his own party and the opposition.

There was also pressure from outside the country, mainly from the EU, which has for years been critical of Cyprus, and other EU countries.

After Al Jazeera’s revelations on Monday, the European Commission said in a statement it had watched the revelations in disbelief.

“President [Ursula] von der Leyen was clear when saying that European values are not for sale,” the Commission said.

“The Commission has frequently raised its serious concerns about investor citizenship schemes, also directly with the Cypriot authorities. The Commission is currently looking at compliance with EU law of the Cypriot scheme in view of possible infringement proceedings.

, 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.

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