NICOSIA (Reuters) - Cyprus's president on Tuesday called for an independent probe into allegations made by a former aide that he has run a corrupt administration under the influence of Russian oligarchs.
Nicos Anastasiades said he had asked a newly-established anti-corruption watchdog to investigate "as a priority" the claims made about him in three books by the former aide, Makarios Drousiotis.
"It is simply not possible to make allegations about the president being involved in acts of corruption or even in a criminal act and to remain indifferent," said Anastasiades.
His second five-year term in office ends in February 2023 and he will not seek another mandate.
It is the first time that Anastasiades, 76, has directly responded to the allegations made about him in the books.
Perceptions of corruption have dogged his centre-right administration since it was forced in 2020 to end a lucrative 'citizenship for investment' scheme that critics said had benefited fraudsters and fugitives from justice.
Under that scheme, Cyprus, a European Union member state, gave passports to more than 7,000 people. In its final form, the scheme granted citizenship to individuals investing a minimum 2 million euros and proved popular with Russian and Asian investors. Cyprus has since revoked some of the passports.
Anastasiades has previously denied any allegations of corruption or wrongdoing but has acknowledged flaws in the 'citizenship for investment' scheme.
Last week, Andreas Mavroyiannis, a candidate backed by the political left for the presidential election scheduled for Feb. 5, called for an inquiry into the allegations made in the books.
Anastasiades initially responded by saying an inquiry would shed light on "slanderous claims and lies" and that he reserved his right to take any person repeating the claims to court.
Anastasiades swept to power in 2013 on the back of public discontent over economic policies of an earlier left-wing administration which left the island nation on the brink of a financial meltdown.
Drousiotis, an investigative researcher and journalist, worked for Anastasiades after his election in Feb. 2013, until late 2014. The books, taken from notes Drousiotis had kept in a journal, were published from Dec. 2020 to Sept. 2022.
(Reporting By Michele Kambas; Editing by Gareth Jones)