NICOSIA – After admitting its much-criticized Golden Visa program selling residency permits and European Union passports to rich foreigners with no ties to the country, at least three of 26 that were revoked had been given to Russians, including billionaire Oleg Deripaska.
The newspaper Politis, which had reported extensively on the program’s flaws, said Deripaska, who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, lost the visa, along with his son and daughters, whose passports were also rescinded.
Vladimir Stolyarenko and Alexander Bondarenko, former executives whom Russian authorities placed on an international wanted list on fraud charges, were also listed in the Politis report, while Deripaska’s spokesperson said Cyprus hadn’t told him of the revocation, Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported.
Media reports, including from The Moscow Times and Reuters – which had reported that friends and associates of Cambodian Premier Hun Sen had gotten the visas and earlier reports indicated they were among the 26 losing their passports.
Who gets the visas and passports is a government secret although critics said the program was wide open to money laundering and criminal activity. Sources had told Reuters its list of individuals to lose passports included nine Russians.
Deripaska, 51, was in 2018 put on the U.S. Treasury sanctions blacklist along with the largest companies in his portfolio for Russia’s “malign activities.” He sued the United States, claiming he was made a victim of the U.S. investigation into Russia’s alleged election interference.
While Cypriots in the diaspora who aren’t rich have to wait for residency permits or citizenships despite their heritage, Cyprus in 2013 – during the beginning of an economic crisis that required a 10-billion-euro ($11.01) international bailout – began selling the golden visas.
Foreigners who invest at least $2.2 million into the Cypriot economy can buy a passport and visa-free travel throughout the 28-country. The program has seen, including family members, some 4,000 people being approved.