Official probe prompted the attorney general of Cyprus Friday to file the first criminal suit over its cash-for-passports scheme, by which thousands of passports may have been wrongly issued to rich unqualified foreigners.
A total of 37 charges have been filed against five individuals and four companies. Additional cases relating to the probe by the ad hoc three-member panel headed by Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Demetra Kalogerou are under investigation.
Parliament speaker Demetris Syllouris was filmed last year while promising to make the passport issuance procedure easier for fictitious investors with a criminal record. An interim report suggested that 51 percent of passports went to unqualified people. Between 2007 and 2020, 6,779 people were awarded Cypriot citizenship. The report recommended the rescission of citizenship in 66 cases due to the existence of a conflict of interest between the cabinet’s members and applicants. According to the Cypriot Legal Service, the report was handed over to the police.
The European Commission expressed its opposition to the so-called “golden passport” schemes of Cyprus and Malta last year by launching an investigation into it. The commission noted:
Due to the nature of EU citizenship, such schemes have implications for the Union as a whole. When a Member State awards nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes an EU citizen and enjoys all rights linked to this status, such as the right to move, reside and work freely within the EU, or the right to vote in municipal elections as well as elections to the European Parliament.
The scheme’s scope extended beyond bona fide investors, as it benefitted fugitives from justice and persons from impoverished nations with strong political connections and willing to obtain EU citizenship in exchange for 2 million euros (US$ 2.41 million).