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Pandora Papers: Anti-government protesters rally in Cyprus

Hundreds of protesters rallied in Cyprus on Saturday against corruption scandals swirling around the government after the Cypriot president was mentioned in the Pandora Papers.

Hundreds of protesters rallied in Cyprus on Saturday against corruption scandals swirling around the government after the Cypriot president was mentioned in the Pandora Papers.

Around 2,000 people gathered for the anti-government demonstration in the capital Nicosia, organised by the main opposition party, the communist AKEL.

The far-reaching Pandora Papers journalistic investigation, released earlier this month, found links between companies in offshore havens and over 300 high-level politicians and public officials around the world, including more than a dozen serving heads of state and government.

Protesters called on the “corrupt” ruling conservative government led by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to resign.

“Enough is enough,” AKEL leader Stefanos Stefanou told the rally.

He said the Mediterranean island, a member of the European Union, had become a “laughing stock” compounded by the Pandora Papers revelations.

“For years, clouds have been gathering, until today’s storm broke out,” Stefanou said.

A law firm founded by President Anastasiades, Nicos Chr. Anastasiades and Partners, is named in the Pandora Papers.

According to the investigation, it appears as “a key offshore go-between for wealthy Russians”.

The firm allegedly helped Russian billionaire and former senator Leonid Lebedev “conceal ownership of four companies by listing law firm employees as owners of Lebedev’s entities”.

Lebedev fled his home country several years ago after being accused of embezzlement, according to the probe.

Anastasiades, a twice elected president since 2013, has denied any wrongdoing and said he welcomes any investigation into his finances.

He said he took no active role in the law firm’s affairs after becoming leader of the conservatives DISY party in 1997.

“The president welcomes an investigation, which will once again categorically refute those who use mud as a means of political survival,” a government spokesman said in response to Saturday’s rally.

AKEL was creating a “toxic climate with distortions and slanderous allegations”, the statement from Marios Pelekanos said.

Last year, Cyprus scrapped a lucrative passports-for-foreign-investment scheme amid corruption allegations and pressure from Brussels.

A damning public inquiry said that over half of more than 6,700 passports issued under the scheme were granted illegally, amid a due diligence vacuum and insufficient background checks.

One of the largest ever global media investigations, the Pandora Papers involved more than 600 journalists who together analysed some 11.9 million documents from financial services companies around the world.

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