Cyprus to abolish golden passport system

  • Cyprus to abolish golden passport system

Cyprus to abolish golden passport system

Cyprus on Tuesday scrapped a lucrative program granting citizenship to wealthy investors amid new allegations that a top state official and a veteran lawmaker were implicated in attempts to bypass strict vetting rules and issue a passport to a fictitious investor with a supposed criminal record.

The commission is anxious about the corruption and security risks created by the right of any holder of European Union country nationality to move freely around the bloc's 27 member states.

The Cyrpriot government said the cancellation was due to "abusive exploitation of the provisions of the program".

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The documentary revealed how parliament speaker, Demetris Syllouris, and member of parliament, Christakis Giovanis (also known as Giovani in Cyprus), were involved in the passport scheme that helped provide convicted criminals with passports through the CIP.

The report also showed lawyer Andreas Pittadjis, real estate agents and others outlining to a man posing as a representative for the Chinese investor different ways to skirt background checks, including a name change or granting citizenship through his wife.

They also said their dealings with our undercover journalists were meant to gather information to support a report to the authorities without "tipping them off", claiming they were aware of what was going on and played along.

Cypriot Attorney-General George Savvides said that he instructed police to initiate an "in-depth police investigation" to determine if any criminal acts had been committed.

Cyprus is one of the few European countries that grants citizenship via investment rather than residency, providing a quicker route to an EU passport for investors which has made it a popular choice for many.

"We watched in disbelief how high-level officials were trading European citizenship for financial gains", Wigand told reporters in Brussels.

"The Commission has frequently raised its serious concerns about investor citizenship schemes, also directly with the Cypriot authorities".

Giovantis subsequently announced his resignation as lawmaker, while Syllouris said that he would abstain from his duties starting next week until an investigation is complete.

Nevertheless, he slammed the "staged and fragmented" report which had tarnished his reputation.

However, Astons, the alternative residency and citizenship acquisition experts, says today's news has caused panic amongst legitimate investors now applying for the scheme, as many rush to complete their investment ahead of the end of the month. So, by the end of 2018, under this program, four thousand foreigners received Cypriot citizenship, having invested a total of 6 billion euros in the economy of the state.

In the footage, the speaker of Cyprus's parliament, the island's second-highest official, and an MP were both shown offering to help the purported Chinese businessman secure a Cyprus passport.

Last week, the Cypriot government's own investigation also led to the revocation of gold passports from seven individuals who had "provided false information in their applications".