Cyprus ends citizenship program after corruption probe

Criminals could get passports if real estate investments were big enough

New York Weekend Edition /
Oct.October 18, 2020 02:00 PM
Nicosia (Credit: iStock)

Nicosia (Credit: iStock)

Cyprus is ending a citizenship program after an undercover investigation found elected officials were willing to help criminals get passports if they made real estate and other investments.

The Cypriot government announced Tuesday the Cyprus Investment Programme would end Nov. 1, according to Al Jazeera.

The statement came just a day after Al Jazeera published a report implicating high-ranking officials in schemes to help convicted criminals obtain Cyprus passports, which allow access to the rest of the European Union and its markets.

The citizenship program granted passports to anyone who invested at least $2.5 million into the country. The program has attracted $8 billion worth of investment in Cyprus since 2013.

The program has been criticized in the past, including by European Union officials, who said it allows criminals to launder stolen assets and dirty money.

In August, Al Jazeera published 1,400 documents showing that Cyprus officials failed to comply with its own laws meant to prevent criminals and fugitives from obtaining passports.

Al Jazeera reporters posed as representatives of a Chinese national seeking a passport through the program. They were open about their fictional client’s prison term for money laundering, which legally precluded him from participating in the program.

Several parties including a real estate developer, a parliament member, and the speaker of parliament told them that the prison term wouldn’t be an issue if their fictional client invested enough money in the country.

“You can tell him that he will have, without mentioning my name or anybody else’s, full support from Cyprus,” said parliamentary speaker Demetris Syllouris. “At any level — political, economic, social, everything.” [Al Jazeera]Dennis Lynch


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