Inquiry tarnishes Cyprus’s golden passports
28 Apr 2021

More than half the people granted EU citizenship under Cyprus’s “golden passport” scheme should not have qualified, an inquiry has found.

The 6,779 people, most of them Russian, obtained citizenship between 2007 and 2020 by buying property on the island worth at least €2 million, entitling them to receive a Cypriot passport within a matter of months.

The scheme was stepped up following the island’s financial crisis in 2013, bringing €9 billion into the state coffers over the next six years.

An investigation by Reuters in 2019 alleged that family members of Hun Sen, the Cambodian prime minister accused of holding tens of millions of dollars overseas, were among them. That led to the scheme being suspended in 2020 and 26 individuals being stripped of citizenship, reported to include Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close links to the Kremlin, and Vladimir Stolyarenko and Alexander Bondarenko, both on international wanted lists on fraud allegations.

In February, President Anastasiades said that the programme had been scrapped. It has now been revealed that the flaws in the scheme went far wider, however. The inquiry, headed by Myron Nicolatos, the former Cypriot chief justice, reported last night that 51 per cent of those who received passports for investment should have been rejected under the country’s own due diligence rules, which were meant to prevent money laundering, tax evasion and sanctions-busting.

By Hannah Lucinda Smith, The Times, 28 April 2021

Read more at The Times

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