Cyprus Mulls Slowing Investment-for-Residence Program

An aircraft takes position for landing at Larnaca airport as the moon rises in southern coastal city of Larnaca, Cyprus, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA – Stung by criticism it has sold too many residency permits in return for lucrative investments, Cyprus is considering cutting back on the program that was begun after a banking and economic crisis hit in 2013.

An unnamed Interior Ministry official confirmed the slowdown is under review, the Chinese news agency Xinhua said, after the European Commission was said to be concerned over the pace of the program.

The official said one of the measures under consideration is to fix a ceiling to the number of people to whom the Council of Ministers could issue a passport in exchange for investment.

Nicholas Tofarides, an official of the Cyprus Land and Building Developers Association, said that Cyprus issued 1,360 passports since the program began, resulting in about 4 billion euros ($4.7 billion) in income from foreign investors.

“The number of passports is not that large to justify all this clatter and noise, given the fact that almost all European countries offer motives for people to obtain their citizenship,” said Tofarides, who heads one of the biggest land developing companies in Cyprus.

The Interior Ministry official said another measure which is under consideration is the prohibition of advertisements by large land developers who try to attract customers.

“The Ministry of Interior, along with the Finance Ministry and the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency, favors imposing strict measures regarding advertisements which follow unethical lines,” the official said.

He added that some developers tend to give the impression to prospective customers that they have close ties with politicians and promise they can safeguard them a passport.

“Beyond fixing a ceiling and prohibit advertisements, we may also consider some other small changes to the program along the lines followed by similar schemes of EU countries to allay concerns expressed in Brussels, without affecting it very much,” the official added.