Cyprus Wants to Curb Agencies Peddling Golden Visas to Foreigners

FILE - 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)

Upset by images suggesting rich foreigners can essentially buy citizenships, Cyprus has put restrictions on agencies offering the so-called Golden Visas and will set up guidelines to limit how they are obtained.

“Any reference to parts of the program must be accompanied with information that is provided on the websites of the Interior and Finance ministries as well as the Invest Cyprus,” the government said in a statement without saying how it could be enforced.

The caveat comes after years of overt offers to the rich of other lands telling them Cypriot citizenship can be theirs for a price and they can obtain a European Union passport if they have the cash to afford it by investing on the island.

The government forbids the promotion of a Cyprus passport in any advertisements, including online ads, where laws are being violated either by false or misleading statements, including inaccurate data and prohibits agencies from using the emblems of Cyprus or the EU but there was no indication it was being adhered to.

Agencies may no longer make use of the terms “fast track” procedures or make references that point to “passports for sale” nor could any of the advantages of Cypriot citizenship be linked to European citizenship without explaining what could actually be said.

The Cypriot government has come under criticism for essentially doing what it wants to forbid the agencies from doing, dangling the passports to the rich to entice them to buy property and put more money on the island which is still fighting a reputation for being a haven where rich foreigners can stash cash to evade taxes.

Many reports from local and foreign media have pointed out a major loophole which allows investors to give up their business interests in Cyprus years later but still keep their EU-wide passports, noted Kathimerini.

The government is under scrutiny again for failing to properly vet Russian passport candidates, raising concern among EU member states the island is an easy place for oligarchs to get EU citizenship at the same time.