Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides has reportedly asked a committee of inquiry to look into whether the First Lady’s niece played a part in the handling of naturalisations granted under the citizenship-by-investment (CBI) scheme.
According to daily Politis, Michaelides made the request last week while testifying before the panel, which is tasked with investigating all citizenships granted to foreign investors between 2007 – when the scheme was launched – and August 17, 2020.
The woman in question is Maria Adamidou-Pastelli, niece to First Lady Andri Anastasiades and cousin to the daughters of the Anastasiades couple.
On June 10, 2013 Adamidou-Pastelli – who up until then held an administrative job at the House – was seconded to the interior ministry. She served in the office of the interior minister, who at the time was Socrates Hasikos.
President Nicos Anastasiades’ daughters Elsa and Ino became partners in their father’s law firm right after the February 2013 presidential elections – when Anastasiades left the firm.
The newspaper said that from late 2018 to autumn 2020 – when the CBI was terminated – the law firm filed additional applications.
These applications were processed by the interior ministry. The final decision to naturalise someone under the CBI programme rested with the cabinet, acting on the interior minister’s recommendation.
The auditor-general intimated that Adamidou-Pastelli had a role in the handling of these cases.
But ex-Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos told Politis that the First Lady’s niece served directly under him in his office, and not with the special unit within the ministry handling the CBI scheme.
Hasikos said that whereas Adamidou-Pastelli had access to all interior ministry files, she had no decision-making role.
Hasikos has been summoned to testify before the committee of inquiry on Thursday.
Meantime on Tuesday the panel continued its hearings. It was expected to hear from Christina Kaoulla, head of the interior ministry’s special unit handling the CBI programme.
The committee of inquiry has also summoned former interior ministers Eleni Mavrou and Neoklis Sylikiotis, who served under the Demetris Christofias administration (2008 to 2013).
Earlier, the government had advised the auditor-general to cease any further investigations or disclosures regarding the passport scheme until the committee of inquiry completes its task.
Michaelides proceeded to release further information regardless, incurring the government’s wrath.