NICOSIA – Bringing the number to 45 revocations, Cyprus pulled seven more passports given to rich foreigners who qualified for an investment program that ended in scandal in October, 2020.
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris made the announcement after a Cabinet meeting and said that they were granted to four investors and three family members, all names being kept secret despite being a public program.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, whose family’s law firm was a conduit for the sales of the European Union passports and residency permits – he was not involved – defended the program almost to the end.
Nouris said the decision was made after the scathing results of an inquiry panel which found most applications weren’t vetted for criminal activity including money laundering, and after European Union sanctions added to the disgrace.
The newspaper Politis said another three criminal cases will be prosecuted but again the government has refused to say who is being charged, leaving it up to media reports to name names.
The indictments are for fraud and conspiracy by law firms and construction companies, the paper said, citing sources it didn’t name, adding that police will further brief the Attorney-General.
The investigative panel found that 53 percent of the 6,779 citizenships granted were unlawful while of the remaining 47 percent, that a third didn’t satisfy the criteria, indicating massive fraud.
It wasn’t said why the other 3,548 found to be unlawful haven’t been revoked in a program that enriched the state and brokers taking part, giving citizenship to people who critics said couldn’t find Cyprus on a map.
The report was issued before the Audit Office’s own report was released and also found a series of malpractices and potential criminal offenses, no word on whether anyone else would be prosecuted over it.
At least 3,810 additional people were naturalized as relatives (spouses, adult dependent children, or parents) of the investors without any legal authorization, the findings also said, adding that 200 million euros ($199.7 million) was lost in taxes and 25 million euros ($24.96 million) through non-payment of fees.
Also, 1 billion euros ($1 billion) worth of contracts were canceled although another 3.5 billion euros ($3.49 billion) were said to be pending, no explanation since the scheme ended almost two years earlier.