About 270 requests were received by the Anti-Concealment Unit (MOKAS) from the Ministry of Interior, regarding names and transactions related to the Cyprus Investment Program (KEP), said the Prosecutor of the Republic, Head of MOKAS, Evka Pape of Exceptional Naturalizations of Foreign Investors and Entrepreneurs, adding that the majority of requests were submitted after 2015.
Responding on Thursday to questions from the Chairman and Members of the Research Committee, Ms. Papakyriakou described as “very worrying” the fact that the Ministry of Interior informed providers that it had contacted MOKAS for program applicants and spoke of leaks “at the highest level”. of the Ministry. She said that although the process should be confidential, she herself received phone calls from providers, which put pressure on her. Invited by the President of the Research Myron Nikolatos, to give the names of providers, who may have been “annoyingly burdensome”, he stated that he should return.
Regarding the fact, she stated that she complained to the competent official of the Ministry of Interior, who replied that she did not say anything. “It was said that it was at the highest level that they were informed,” she said, adding elsewhere in her testimony that “I guess it was from the Ministry.”
Ms. Papakyriakou said that until 2019, MOKAS sent a written response to the requests of the Ministry of Interior, however it changed its practice when it realized that this could be misinterpreted as giving a “green light” for naturalization.
Explaining the process, Ms. Papakyriakou said that MOKAS has developed a database, where any legal or natural person has been employed by the Unit in any way. He said that the system became more effective after 2015. “From an audit we did we accepted around 270 requests” from the Ministry of Interior, most after 2015, while there was a small number before, he said. He stated that on the basis of letters from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MOKAS was conducting an audit for specific names.
The members of the Research asked Ms. Papakyriakou to send a table with data on these requests, the origin of the applicants and the date of response from MOKAS within a week.
In a related question, the Head of MOKAS answered that the percentage of problematic cases was small. “When we received these letters, we checked the system and where we did not find anything, we replied that it did not concern us in any way,” he said.
When we began to realize that our answer could be misinterpreted as an applicant “OK”, a report was included stating that the answer was limited to the range of information available to MOKAS and did not imply that there was anything wrong with the person. he said.
He also said that he was receiving phone calls from providers, who learned that a letter had been sent with a request to MOKAS, although, as he said, normally they should not have known.
He said that he was informed that in case of a negative answer from MOKAS, it was considered that someone could be naturalized, to add that “it was not our responsibility to decide” such a thing.
To avoid such misinterpretations, the Head of MOKAS stated that the Unit followed a different tactic, informing the Ministry that if it does not receive a negative answer for an applicant within five working days, it means that it did not employ MOKAS. “We wanted to avoid reporting that 'MOKAS responded negatively,'” he said.
Elsewhere, he stated that if anything arose later for an applicant, he would inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On our own initiative, we informed them of anything negative that came to our notice, without having a relevant request, he said.
Asked if the banks informed MOKAS in time for unusual transactions, he replied that in some cases the information came during the examination of the application or even after the naturalization.
Ms. Papakyriakou also stated that she expressed concerns about the way the program is controlled, while there were assurances that “sufficient controls are being carried out”. He stated that “although it was not our responsibility” he sent a relevant letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on January 30, 2018, requesting a meeting, which took place after about two weeks.
He also said that the then Minister of Interior, Konstantinos Petridis, invited her to his office to exchange views regarding the controls of investors. Mr. Petridis “seemed concerned about the things that needed to be fixed,” he said.
Joe Lowe case
Ms. Papakyriakou was also asked about the case of Malaysian wanted Joe Lowe and the process of confiscating the property in Cyprus. He said that there were reports, both in the international press and in Cyprus, and MOKAS received a report of a suspicious transaction from a specific bank.
Transactions had taken place, but there were negative reports that led the bank to report to MOKAS, he said, adding that they in turn turned to the Malaysian authorities “with whom communication is not very easy”.
After it was confirmed that the big fraud had taken place, MOKAS contacted the Police to obtain information through Interpol, he continued.
The mansion was then located and the property was seized by court order, while the Malaysian authorities were asked to consider issuing a confiscation order, in order to follow the sale process through the courts.
The commitment was made in 2020, continued Ms. Papakyriakou, talking about time-consuming procedures.
He said that the corresponding Malaysian Unit “had no idea” that Joe Lowe had been naturalized in Cyprus.
He also stated that the Land Registry was informed, so that in case an attempt is made to transfer the property, MOKAS will be informed immediately.
According to Ms. Papakyriakou, the property is still registered in the developer's company. “We are going to get the key, because someone has to maintain it until Malaysia sends the request for confiscation,” he said.
He also stated that there is an amount in a frozen account in Cyprus that belongs to an affiliated person, to which, however, no citizenship was granted, while it is expected to be determined whether the money is a product of fraud.
Ms. Papakyriakou was also asked about a post on the OCCRP website concerning the former law firm of the President of the Republic, saying that “a thorough investigation was carried out and it turned out that there was nothing illegal or reprehensible, but that it was a normal transaction.”
The former Attorney General was also informed about the case, for which President Anastasiadis had publicly requested an investigation, he said.
Among other things, Ms. Papakyriakou answered questions about specific cases of investors from India, Iran and Kenya.
PHilenews / ΚΥΠΕ