ECONOMY: Cyprus to review ‘golden passports’ issued before 2018

Cyprus’ Interior Ministry is to re-evaluate all applications for naturalization submitted up until 2018 to detect whether a Cypriot passport was given to a foreign national with a dubious background.

The move comes after Reuters reported that members of the Cambodian political elite are holders of a Cyprus passport.

Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides told CNA that according to a cabinet decision, enhanced due diligence checks will be conducted on individuals who were naturalised before 2018, when controls were lighter.

He said the government has commissioned three international agencies – Sterling Diligence, Kroll and S-RM Intelligence and Risk Consulting – to carry out the enhanced due diligence audits for all applicants.

The three agencies were chosen after an international call for tenders was issued.

“Using enhanced due diligence methods available today, an additional internal audit will be conducted, looking into the naturalisation procedures that took place before 2018, that is, before the criteria applied became more stringent, said Petrides.

This investigation will show whether persons who have been granted Cypriot citizenship face charges, committed offences, or have European warrants issued against them, he added.

Petrides also noted that in cases where applicants are found not to comply with the criteria, the Ministry of Interior will initiate a process of stripping them of their Cypriot citizenship.

“The deprivation of citizenship process will be triggered in all cases where due diligence demonstrates that naturalized investors or family members face charges of wrongdoing and or international or European restrictive measures have been imposed against them.

The Minister of Interior emphasised that as of 2018 a continuous due diligence audit is being carried out to ascertain wrongdoings of investors who have been naturalized, even after they have obtained the Cypriot passport.

Main opposition party AKEL has criticised the government over the way officials have handled allegations that its passport for investment scheme was being abused.

AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou accused the government of hiding away while targeting those who are questioning their actions, instead of feeling the need to shed light on the matter.

I would like to express my regret over the way in which the President himself, and the government is reacting to these reports. It is an issue that has internationally exposed the Republic of Cyprus, as the country is defamed in a film, starring Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, and other major actors, said Kyprianou referring to a Netflix film titled ‘The Laundromat’.

He also questioned President Anastasiades over recent reports that he used the private jet of a Saudi investor who was given a Cypriot passport in 2016.

Under what terms and conditions has it (the jet) been used? Where has this Saudi invested? asked Kyprianou.

Source: The Financial Mirror