Foreigners Buying Cyprus Golden Visas Face Fraud Risks

A man with an umbrella walks during rain as the sun sets, in Ayia Napa resort in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, FILE)

NICOSIA – Wealthy foreigners who can buy so-called Golden Visas to get residency permits in Cyprus – without living there but able to reside in other European Union countries – could find themselves in a bind if the government decides to grant companies or individuals selling investments the right to operate as licensed advisers.

That was the warning from a stakeholder, Akis Kyradjis, Vice President at Arton Capital, who told the Cyprus Mail that they risk being exposed to malpractice and fraud.

“This is like allowing the producers of medicines to act as doctors as well,” said Kyradjis, whose company advises the rich about residency and citizenship matters.

“We find it hard to believe that the government will make Cyprus the only country in the world to declare officially that it allows conflict of interest in providing professional services to investors,” he said.

Ironically, the government, which is aggressively pushing for affluent foreigners to buy the visas, has barred agencies from promoting them.

Kyradjis said that while the government had taken measures to reduce the risk of abuse in other areas, it had not taken a final decision over the licenses.

Applicants are required to present clean criminal records although Cyprus is still fighting a reputation as a haven for tax cheats and money launderers, and they must sign an agreement that they will avoid conflicts of interest between their organizations, clients, business associates and other professionals.

The scheme, introduced in 2014, has been updated with measures regulating the business of the Golden Visas, with investors required to put at least 2 million euros ($2.34 million) into real estate or a company or in shares.

They can also invest 2 million euros in securities offered by investment companies licensed by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, or a combination of both parts.

If investment sellers also become eligible to register as service providers, the island could “suffer another huge blow to its reputation as a transparent, dependable and ethical destination for foreign investors”, said Kyradjis, if it turns out the buyers have shady records.

“Cyprus will thus become the object of international ridicule,” he said.