Ex-Cypriot minister and Orthodox church head distance selves from Low citizenship investment scandal

Jerry Choong
Hasikos said Low ought to be stripped of his citizenship in light of his involvement in the 1MDB scandal. — Picture via Facebook

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 — A former Cypriot minister and the incumbent Orthodox Christian archbishop of the island nation have denied assisting fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho to obtain a Cypriot passport through an investment programme.

The Cyprus Mail reported former interior minister Socratis Hasikos, who headed the ministry in 2015 when Low made his application, as saying that the documents were filed via an audit firm 10 weeks before September.

On Twitter, Hasikos said there was nothing unusual about the duration in which Low secured his passport, and that the agency handling his application completed its background screening in cooperation with its partners — Interpol, the Cyprus police and the Bank of Cyprus.

It is understood that Interpol at the time did not have any compromising information about Low, while Cypriot police confirmed he had no criminal record. The bank, which received the €5 million (RM22.99 million) deposited by the businessman, confirmed the payment to be clean.

However the ex-minister said in his view, Low ought to be stripped of his citizenship in light of what has occurred.

On his part, Archbishop Chrysostomos II said a developer which had bought land from the church had requested for Low’s citizenship to be granted.

Although the church can promote certain individuals, he said that the responsibility for giving citizenship lies with the state authorities.

“He told us he was building mansions on the land he bought from us (the church). It is done for the good of Cyprus. It is not up to us if the citizenship will be given, we are just asking,” Chrysostomos said.

The archbishop said Low’s name was one of three provided by the developer for citizenship promotion, adding that the businessman had donated up to €300,000 (RM1.37 million) to the church’s theological school when he visited Cyprus.

Yesterday, local Greek-language newspaper Politis reported that Chrysostomos sent a letter to Hasikos on Sept 10, 2015, in which the minister was urged to consider Low’s application under the country’s citizenship-by-investment programme favourably.

In the letter, the archbishop also informed Hasikos that Low had invested €5 million to purchase a home in Cyprus. He was to visit the island on September 18, and was scheduled to meet Chrysostomos to discuss the promotion of various investment projects on church-owned land.

Low’s citizenship application proposal was submitted to the Cypriot cabinet on September 11, and was approved by unanimous decision.

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