By The Free Iranian Staff
Cyprus said on Wednesday that it had started a process to strip 26 individuals of citizenship they received under a secretive passports-for-investment scheme. Nicos Anastasiades, Cyprus’ president admitted that the scheme was flawed and the passports had been “mistakenly” granted to wealthy overseas investors under a controversial cash-for-citizenship program.
Cypriot sources said the group included nine Russians, eight Cambodians, five Chinese nationals, two Kenyans, one Malaysian and one Iranian. The names of these individuals were not released.
The allure of a Cypriot passport, particularly to wealthy individuals from countries outside the European Union, is that holders also become EU citizens and can travel and work freely within the bloc.
Following reports that surfaced in October, the Mediterranean island nationals have shocked by the revelation of their government’s investments scheme. “We have to admit mistakes” over some “blatant” instances where passports shouldn’t have been issued, Anastasiades told reporters.
After a four-hour cabinet meeting, Constantinos Petrides, the Cypriot interior minister, told reporters: “The council of ministers today affirmed the will of the government for strict adherence to the terms and conditions of the Cyprus investment program.”
Nearly 4,000 passports have been issued to investors since the program was launched following a 2013 financial crisis.
The scheme, which requires investments of at least 2 million euros ($2.2 million) in real estate or in a Cyprus-based business, has so far generated some 7 billion euros ($7.8 billion). Anastasiades said that money has helped the country rebound strongly from near bankruptcy.
In October the government of Cyprus was forced to launch an investigation into all investors who received passports before eligibility rules and vetting procedures were first tightened in 2018.
This was after the European Union issued a report in January cautioning Cyprus and other countries to reinforce their citizenship vetting procedures amid concerns that third-country nationals were abusing the program for money laundering and eluding tax laws.
Even stricter vetting was implemented in early 2019 which consisted of the condition that investors already hold a visa permitting them to visit the EU.