EU Pushes Cyprus Over Golden Visa Sales to Rich Foreigners

Αssociated Press

FILE - An aircraft takes position for landing at Larnaca airport as the moon rises in southern coastal city of Larnaca, Cyprus, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA - The European Commission wants Cyprus to explain whether there will be a further investigation into “possible misconduct” by 26 wealthy foreigners who had their Golden Visa residency permits and European Union passports revoked.

The commission sent a letter to the Cypriot government seeking clarification of the yanking of the visas, with the news agency Reuters - which broke stories about the permits given people who hadn’t been properly vetted for possible wrongdoing - saying the EU wants answers as to how the visas won’t be given to those engaged in criminal activity.

Critics said Cyprus’ scheme is especially susceptible to money laundering and has given foreign criminals a place to hide their money and themselves with the EU now wanting to know how the government plans to sort out high-risk applicants and recipients, the news agency said after reporting it had seen the communication.

The EU commission wants an answer by Jan. 6, the report said.

The Cypriot newspaper Politis published the names after the government would only reveal the nationalities. The names included those of families of the wealthy investors, including Malaysian Jho Taek Low, a fugitive wanted for his alleged role in the 1MDB scandal — the embezzlement scam uncovered in 2015.

That country’s then-Premier was accused of funneling more than $700 million from a state-run development company, to his personal bank accounts. Since then, other players involved, allegedly including Low, were being tracked by authorities.

Politis’ list adds more detail to a previous report by the news agency Reuters about the government’s plan to react to criticism and revoking the residency permits and passports that allowed free travel within the 28-country EU.

The list includes eight Cambodians with political or familial ties to Cambodia’s current ruling party as well as Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, currently under US Treasury sanctions and who the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) in 2018 reported that's how he had obtained Cypriot citizenship.

Also also facing revocation of the passports are multi-millionaire Kenyan businessman Humphrey Kariuki and his wife. He was charged in his country for tax evasion from his alcohol production and distribution business, said Kenyan news reports.