Archbishop of Cyprus called to testify about taking money to help Malaysian fugitive obtain citizenship

Nicosia, Cyprus, January 26, 2021

Abp. Chrysostomos intervened for citizenship for fugitive Jho Low, friend to rapper Ludacris, Leo DiCaprio and other stars. Photo: Abp. Chrysostomos intervened for citizenship for fugitive Jho Low, friend to rapper Ludacris, Leo DiCaprio and other stars. Photo:     

Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus was interrogated by an investigative committee today concerning his connections to the Malaysian fugitive whom he helped obtain expedited Cypriot citizenship in exchange for a handsome sum.

Though the Archbishop’s dealings with the criminal financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, took place in 2015, they became a major media topic beginning in 2018. Many Orthodox outlets and analysts believe the scandal was a form of pressure against the Archbishop, who up to that point was against recognizing the Ukrainian schismatics.

The Cypriot Holy Synod declared in February 2019 that it could not recognize a church made up of anathematized and unordained schismatics, and Abp. Chrysostomos firmly believed that any unilateral actions would only cause further harm to the Church. However, as is well known, the Archbishop went back on his principled stance and made a unilateral decision to recognize the Synod, causing a division within his own Church of Cyprus.

It was confirmed to the investigative committee by the testimonies of the former Minister of the Interior Socrates Hasikos and the head of the Cyprus Investment Program Unit at the Ministry of the Interior Christina Kaoulla that the Archbishop intervened for Low to receive an expedited passport in exchange for a deposit of €300,000 (worth $360,000 in 2015) into Archdiocesan coffers, reports the Cypriot outlet Politis.

Low stole more than $4.5 billion from the Malaysian state investment program, thus, as Politis notes, the money given to the Archdiocese in fact belongs to the Malaysian people and has yet to be returned.

The deposit alone would not have raised eyebrows had it not coincided with the issuance of Joe Lowe’s passport and had it not been preceded by Abp. Chrysostomos’ letter to the Minister of the Interior requesting Lowe’s expedited naturalization.

The Archbishop then received another check for €10,000 ($11,200).

Asked in December if he regretted his dealings with Lowe, Abp. Chrysostomos answered: “I do not regret it at all. I did my duty.”

Low is accused in his country of corruption and abuse of power, in addition to the sizable theft. He was known as far as Hollywood because of the lavish life he led with his country’s stolen money. He was known to party with famous actors, TV personalities, and models.

But he is now included in the list of names submitted to the Council of Ministers by Interior Minister Nikos Nouris for the removal of Cypriot citizenship because he secured it with deceit and false representations. Low entered Cyprus on September 18, 2015, and just four days later, he was a Cypriot citizen.

He also purchased a $5.6 million mansion on Church-owned land in Ayia Napa, which was recently seized to be sold, with the proceeds returning to Malaysia.

According to former Minister Hasikos, at that time that Low was granted citizenship, Cypriot authorities were aware that he was called to testify in his country, but there were no criminal charges against him and he had not been arrested for anything. The banks also found nothing suspicious about Lowe’s money, Hasikos testified.

Hasikos also testified that he received a letter from Abp. Chrysostomos on Lowe’s behalf, “because he had an interest of his own,” that is, Low gave him money to build a villa.

During his testimony today, the Archbishop said he has interceded in a similar way for hundreds of people, though Low was the only one of them he actually met.

The Greek outlet Protothema has also reported on a number of scandals that have surrounded the Archbishop for years.

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