NICOSIA – Relucantly imposing European Union sanctions over the invasion of Cyprus, Cyprus – home to Russian investors and a favored by Russian tourists – has reportedly revoked 21 residency permits and passports for for Russian oligarchs and their families.
That was reported by In-Cyprus, a news outlet owned by Phileleftheros Media, which said the move was made in accordance with sanctions to seize Russian assets, including its wealthy.
That would see the revocation of passports for dual citizens including businessmen Alexander Ponomarenko, Vadim Nikolaevich Moskovic, Mikhail Gutseriev, and Alexei Kuzmichev, as well as the passports of 17 family members.
The Cyprus press office did not immediately respond to requests from Business Insider for a comment or reaction although a previous residency program selling EU passports to wealthy foreigners was ended after it was found open to money laundering, criminal activity and scandal.
Cyprus, following the sanctions, is also disallowing flights from Russia, a key tourism market, but said that could be reconsidered and bring a break with the EU if too many Russians go to Turkey instead.
The move to yank the passports came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a video conference with Cyprus’ Parliament and urged the government to take away the Russian citizenships, said Reuters.
Cyprus stopped accepting new residency permit foreign applicants in 2020 after an undercover investigation led by Al Jazeera revealed corruption within its vetting process found open to wrongdoing applicants.
The program previously granted citizenship to foreigners who invested at least $2.2 million in the country. Between 2007 and 2020, this provided 2,886 Russian nationals with dual citizenship, added Reuters.
Russian investment in the country were more than $100 million in 2020, making it Cyprus’ top source of Foreign Direct Investment, according to data published by the Central Bank of Cyprus, the Insider said.
The EU asked all member states who have Golden Passport schemes – including Greece – to revoke them and the passports for Russians tied to President Vladimir Putin’s administration.
“European values are not for sale,” Didier Reynders, the Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, said during a speech in late March.
“We consider that the sale of citizenship through ‘golden passports’ is illegal under EU law and poses serious risks to our security. It opens the door to corruption, money laundering and tax avoidance.” But they haven’t been banned.