Cyprus to Rescind 10 More Golden Passports Over Alleged Abuse

The Cypriot government decided on Wednesday to start the process of stripping its citizenship from 10 individuals who obtained it under the country’s discontinued ‘citizenship by investment program’, according to a press statement by the Government Spokesperson Niovis Parisinou.

Cyprus Passport for MoneyThe Cypriot golden passport scheme granted EU passports to several thousand individuals, many of whom were later exposed to be ineligible. (Photo: BEST CITIZENSHIPS, License)The decision followed an investigation by the Ministry of Interior into three investors and seven dependents, whose identity, however, was not disclosed.

“In total, from October 2021 until today, the Council of Ministers decided to initiate the process of depriving 60 investors and 159 of their dependents of citizenship,” said Parisinou.

In addition to these cases, Cypriot passports have already been taken from six individuals, she added.

The Cyprus Investment Program under which thousands of foreigners have been granted citizenship was introduced in its main form in the aftermath of the European Debt Crisis in an attempt to help the country’s distressed economy.

Citizenship was offered in exchange for up to 2.5 million euro in investment and was particularly popular among Russian and Chinese nationals.

However, the scheme was scrapped in 2020 after Al Jazeera’s Cyprus Papers investigation exposed that some of the passports ended up in the hands of internationally-sanctioned individuals and convicted criminals.

A 2021 Cyprus Probe into the scheme found that of the 6,779 citizenships granted in the period between 2007 and 2020, 51% went to those who did not qualify.

Alongside conflict of interest, it found instances of properties purchased multiple times by different investors through fraudulent agreements to make their investment in Cyprus appear as sufficient.

In some cases, citizenship was also given to senior executives of foreign and Cypriot companies although they could not be considered investors as they did not own the companies.

Similar schemes are still operational in EU countries such as Malta, Portugal and Greece.

The scheme has been persistently criticized by the European Commission and the pressure on the concerned countries has intensified following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In response, Malta excluded Russia and Belarus citizens from its Residence and Visa Program, whilst Bulgaria canceled its previously active golden passport scheme altogether.