Cyprus is at the centre of controversy surrounding the issuing of EU passports to wealthy foreigners.
According to UK newspaper, the Guardian, the country’s received over 4 billion euros since 2013 by granting “golden visas” to the super rich, in exchange for cash.
Applicants have to invest 2 million euros in property, or 2.5 million euros in companies or government bonds, to benefit from the scheme. There are no language requirements, and the only residency requirement is a single visit once every seven years.
Critics say that the country has failed to carry out due diligence in relation to applications.
Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, got his passport in 2010 despite having been placed under sanctions by the US over allegations he’d benefitted from corruption.
Controversial Ukranian billionaire, Igor Kolomoisky also took advantage of the scheme. He has been accused of having taken 4.7 billion euros out of Privatbank, of which he is a co-founder.
The Cypriot government was quick to quash security concerns in relation to the policy.
Finance Minister, Charis Georgiadis, said:
“Νone of those involved in the terrorist acts that have recently taken place in Europe had a Cypriot passport. I can’t agree with reports that the passports are being sold. The Cypriot state doesn’t earn a single euro”
A Cypriot passport gives its bearer the right to live and work within Europe.
Margaritis Schinas, Chief Spokesperson for the European Commission said:
“Since 2014 the Commision has been pursuing the dialogue with the Cypriot authorities, to ensure the genuine link between the country and the investor applying for the naturalisation is established. In the context of this dialogue the cypriot authorities revised the law at the end of 2016 and the Commision however remains in dialogue with Cyprus over the application of this revised law.”
The issue is also due to be discussed within the European Parliament, when an amendment tabled by Portugese MEP Ana Gomes reaches the floor.