Only days after Cyprus put restrictions on agencies offering so-called Golden Visas offering passports to rich foreigners who can buy citizenship, government officials went to Hong Kong – home of a billionaire casino owner developing one on the island – to woo more investors with a European Union ticket.
The government had said it was upset with images showing citizenships for sale that could be used to give the wealthy a free ride into other EU countries using their Cypriot visa or passport and banned agencies from using the scheme to entice customers.
“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.
Despite that, the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) waved the visa program around in Hong Kong, promoting Cyprus as an attractive destination for start-ups in Asia, the Cyprus Mail reported.
The program allows entrepreneurs from countries outside the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA), to enter, reside and work in Cyprus in order to establish, operate and develop a start-up with a high growth potential.
CIPA officials took part in the international conference Rise where more than 500 start-ups were given the opportunity to present their products and services to more than 15,000 attendees from some 100 countries.
Among 350 speakers from all over the world, Kyriacos Kokkinos, Invest Cyprus board member, participated in a panel discussion with Wan Shamilah, Chief Digital Officer of Petronas and 85B energy company and Edith Yeung, partner of 500 start-ups in China.
Kokkinos highlighted Cyprus visa program as an example of how to attract and support start-ups.
“This program is a brilliant national initiative for bringing start-ups together, promoting cross-fertilization in knowledge creation and sharing at global scale towards digital economy”, he said.
Key themes promoted by start-ups at the conference were digital economy, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, autonomous driving and Blockchain, presented to some of the world’s biggest companies and major global media.
“Rise was an excellent platform for fruitful discussions as well as extensive networking opportunities with key players in the innovation and tech ecosystem,” said Marios Giogoudis of Invest Cyprus.
Cyprus has for years been making overt offers to the rich of other lands telling them 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.