NICOSIA – After strongly defending its much-criticized sale of Golden Visas and European Union passports to rich foreigners, the under-fire Cypriot government will re-review them and said they could be revoked if those who got them didn’t meet eligibility criteria.
That came after Reuters reported that eight relatives and allies of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen were able to buy citizenship, the government promising a probe of how it happened but refusing to comment on any individual cases, citing data privacy even amidst criticism the program is being used for money laundering and by criminals.
Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou says the Interior Ministry investigation will target a select number of so-called “golden passport” recipients after new information said they may have contravened the rules.
Prodromou said the individuals will be vetted again according to criteria that were used before the rules were altered earlier this year.
The EU has instructed Cyprus to tighten background checks for the scheme that has generated approximately 7 billion euros ($7.79 billion) since its 2013 inception.
Earlier, Prodromou said the government would review citizenship granted to eight relatives and persons close to the Cambodian leaders, the news agency later added.
“An investigation will take place for these cases, and if anything untoward is established decisions will be taken, not excluding revoking citizenship, if that is warranted,” Prodromou told journalists after a cabinet meeting.
Cyprus has had a residency-for-sale investment plan in place since 2013, under which a minimum 2-million-euro ($2.2 million) investment can buy a passport and visa-free travel throughout the EU but it has been criticized for not properly vetting applicants for money laundering or criminal activity being hidden under that guise.
The eight relatives or allies or Hun Sen given Cypriot passport include Cambodia’s Police Chief, who has clamped down on anti-government dissent, and its finance minister – who sought Cypriot citizenship in 2016 and 2017, Reuters said.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)