Cyprus to Revoke 45 Golden Visas Issued Illegally
Authorities in Cyprus announced on Friday that they are potentially revoking the citizenship of at least 45 people after a probe found that more than half of those who were issued passports through a now terminated citizenship-for-investment program should never have been granted one.
Designed to attract foreign investment, the program was launched in 2007 but became particularly attractive after President Nicos Anastasiades rose to power in 2013. Since then, the program had injected more than $8 billion into the island’s failing economy.
Because of obvious irregularities revealed by the media and the subsequent criticism by Brussels, it was terminated in 2020.
A board of inquiry tasked with sifting through the thousands of so-called Golden Visas - which could be either passports or residence permits - issued to rich foreigners in exchange for a two million euro (US$2.3 million) investment - found that procedures were not followed for more than 3,000 of the passports issued.
In a written statement from the Cyprus’ Press and Information Office, Government Spokesman Marios Pelekanos said that the board will investigate another 57 citizenships suspected of having been illicitly granted.
The media had been warning for years that the applicants’ backgrounds were not properly checked and that some dubious types, such as convicted fraudsters, money launderers and corrupt politicians, had obtained Cypriot citizenship or residence through this program.
This raised concerns in Brussels, as Cypriot citizenship means European Union citizenship.
But it was only after Al Jazeera secretly filmed a former speaker of the parliament and other officials apparently offering to help a foreigner with a criminal record obtain a passport, that authorities terminated the program in 2020 and launched a probe into each granted citizenship or residence permit.
“Our interim report gives statistical data concerning illegal naturalizations – those which, in the view of the committee, were issued by exceeding the boundaries of the law – and those are 51.81 percent of the total,” Myron Nicolatos, the chair of the inquiry, was quoted on Friday.