Rival Parties Say Cyprus Golden Visas Risking EU Sanctions

(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, FILE)

NICOSIA – Cyprus’ Golden Visa program offering residency permits to rich foreign investors that let them travel through the European Union, cited by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as being used for criminal means, could lead to European Union sanctions, rival party officials said.

The OECD report had said that tax cheats and others who shouldn’t be eligible for EU visas are exploiting the scheme of buying residency permits because of their wealth, the source of some unknown.

Cyprus and Malta, where a journalist investigating corruption and money laundering was murdered, were the only European Union countries on the OECD black list, said the Cyprus Mail. The OECD analyzed more than 100 residence and citizenship by investment (CBI/RBI) schemes offered by jurisdictions committed to the OECD/G20 Common Reporting Standard (CRS).

The leader of the Cyprus Green Party, George Perdikis, warned the way the scheme is being managed could bring EU sanctions, said Forbes magazine, while an official from the major opposition AKEL, accused the government of setting up a money-making industry being used by some with dubious backgrounds, with Cyprus still fighting a reputation as being a money-laundering and tax cheat hideaway, now allegedly offering EU passports to criminals.

An official from the ruling DISY party told the magazine that Cyprus’ Golden Visa program is similar to others – which weren’t on the OECD blacklist.

Cyprus offers two types of schemes: citizenship by investment, naturalization of investors by and residence by investment.

According to the OECD the schemes offered by Cyprus and 20 other countries “potentially pose a high-risk to the integrity of CRS.”

“Potentially high-risk CBI/RBI schemes are those that give access to a low personal tax rate on income from foreign financial assets and do not require an individual to spend a significant amount of time in the jurisdiction offering the scheme,” the report said.

The other countries on the list were Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Colombia, Dominica, Grenada, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Montserrat, Panama, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, Turks and Caicos Islands, the United Arab Emirates and Vanuatu.

A joint report by Global Witness and Transparency International said programs run by some EU countries to sell passports and residency permits to wealthy foreign citizens pose risks of money laundering as some are not properly managed.

The programs are available in 13 EU countries: Austria, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Britain, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and France. Hungary has terminated its program.

According to the report, titled ‘European Getaway – Inside the Murky World of Golden Visas’. Cyprus’ CBI marketing says the island offers “the quickest, most assured route to citizenship of a European country”.

“The statistics seem to support this,” the report said. “Cyprus’ passports-for-sale scheme is the most prolific of its kind in Europe, with 3,300 foreign nationals having secured EU passports since 2013,” earning the country some 4.8 billion euros ($5.5 billion).