Cyprus to More Closely Examine Golden Visa Recipients

Published: 30 October 2019

CyprusPresidentNicosAnastasiadesPresident Nicos Anastasiades (Photo: The Kremlin)

By Nicholas Flynt

The Cypriot government said on Tuesday it will hire three firms to carry out due diligence checks on individuals applying for the country’s citizen-by-investment program, and comb through past naturalizations to make sure they comply with the latest eligibility requirements, Cyprus Mail reported. 

The government came under fire again this weekend after media reported that a Saudi sheikh, whose late father had been alleged to have had ties to terrorist financing, was granted a Cypriot passport in 2016. 

The revelation came on the heels of a flurry of reports and activities that have swirled around Cyprus’ citizen-by-investment program — perhaps better known as the Golden Visa scheme. 

The government has promised to investigate how relatives and friends of Cambodia’s authoritarian prime minister managed to land Cypriot citizenship through the scheme, as detailed in a Reuters report earlier this month.

Opposition party Akel this weekend pressured the government over reports detailing how the law firm of President Nicos Anastasiades was profiting from the scheme and how he used the sheikh’s private luxury plane to fly to the Seychelles.  

“Whereas the personal involvement of Mr. Anastasiades and the law firm bearing his name in the ‘golden passport’ scheme may not on the one hand point to unlawful acts, it does however raise a serious matter of ethics and morals,” the party said in a statement.

Akel noted that President Anastasiades had stated he was “ready to resign if he has indeed used the program for self-serving purposes,” and urged him to say whether the media reports alleging that he “made use of the Saudi Arabian’s naturalization by travelling with the sheikh’s executive Boeing 737 are true.”

Cyprus announced in February that it was strengthening security checks and introducing an increased monetary contribution for the Golden Visa scheme. So-called Politically Exposed Persons would no longer be eligible for the program and cash investments are no longer allowed, among other adjustments.

The internal audit announced by Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides on Tuesday will cover cases from 2008 to 2018, when the criteria were tightened. 

Petrides said that the audit will specifically examine cases in which citizenship was granted to individuals who met the criteria at the time of naturalization, but who may have subsequently faced criminal charges, or else were placed under EU sanctions. 

If this were to be the case, the ministry could initiate a process to revoke citizenship, he added.