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Politics

EU Lawmakers Blast Cyprus for Residency Permit Scandal

Seven months after Cyprus ended a program of selling residency permits and European Union passports to rich foreigners without checking them all for criminal activity, Members of the European Parliament are still lashing out over the scandalized scheme.

They were reacting to a finding by an independent panel that nearly half of the 7,000 passports issued were done unlawfully and with no one prosecuted for anything yet.

The commission reviewed a sample of 6,647 passports issued under the scheme and found that in 860 cases, illegalities were so serious that these passports should be canceled, and Cypriot citizenship revoked, said the International Policy Digest, citing sources not named.

Most of them went to Chinese and Russian oligarchs despite European Union warnings the scheme could be a conduit for money laundering and for criminals to hide their assets and get EU passports allowing them travel in the bloc.

Czech MEP, Mikuláš Peksa (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance), stated: “The European Union must ensure that nothing like this happens in Cyprus or anywhere else in Europe.” He said that the passport scheme went “against all the moral principles of the EU.”

Peksa called for illegally-issued passports to be canceled and those affected Cypriot passports to be canceled: “I’m glad for any exposure of illegal business. Nowhere in the world should it be possible to buy citizenship.”

“In order to gain citizenship, one must be able to use a legal asylum process in which unbiased authorities make the decision,” he told the site.

German MEP, Sven Giegold (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance), said in an exclusive interview: “Cyprus must stop issuing these passports, regardless of when the application was made (i.e. even if before the scheme closed to new applicants.) Cyprus must end the whole process and stop believing that the scheme can be healed.”

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