26 Nov 2019
Cyprus has no plans to stop selling Golden Visas to rich foreigners who invest in the country despite the government’s admission there were laws that let them acquire residency permits and European Union passports without being property vetted – leading to 26 being removed.
Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said it could have allowed high-risk people to benefit after the government had said there weren’t any serious problems and President Nicos Anastasiades continued to defend the scheme critics said was open to money laundering and other criminal activity, saying that other EU countries had even worse records as criticism grew that Cyprus was selling the visas to anyone who had the money to get them.
That included Malaysian financier Jho Low, who put a 5-million euro ($5.51 million) property in the resort town of Ayia Napa, although he since was implicated in a scandal at 1MDB, which US and Malaysian prosecutors said was used to siphon out hundreds of millions of dollars.
In an interview with the Greek newspaper Kathemerini, Petrides said Low – one of those whose visa, including an EU passport, was stripped – would not have been given a passport under today’s criteria despite reports it was still too lenient now.
Earlier this year the government introduced stricter eligibility criteria including for ‘”an advance exclusion” – to reject those found to have been involved in serious criminal offenses, or even reportedly, without having been found guilty.
“They may eventually be proven to be innocent, but they are considered high-risk,” Petrides said as the government scrambled to undo damage caused by a Reuters report that Cyprus was selling Golden Visas to wealthy relatives and allies of Cambodian Premier Hun Sen among others.
Cyprus’ intention of tougher scrutinizing and extra safeguards came after the Low case – which involved Archbishop Chrysostomos II reportedly sending a letter to former Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos, urging him to look favourably upon Low’s application after the businessman donated 300,000 euros ($331,022) to a theological school when he visited Cyprus – showed shortcomings in the program and highlighted the role of firms as middlemen.
Read more at The National Herald
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