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Economy

Google’s Ex-Chief Got Cypriot Passport, Bought LA Mansion

Seven months after he applied for residency on Cyprus – and reportedly got it, along with a European Union passport – Google's former CEO Eric Schmidt has bought a Los Angeles mansion for $61.5 million.

The site Market Watch reported the purchase that came after he bought a mansion in Santa Barbara, California for $30.8 million in September, 2020, shortly before applying for the Cypriot residency.

Cyprus keeps the names of people who applied for residency and European Union passports a secret even as the program shut down over scandals.

He applied just before – or after – the scheme was stopped after it was reported rich foreign investors weren't being properly vetting for criminal activity or money laundering, the island still notorious as a tax haven.

At the time, the site Recode said that Schmidt was close to getting the permit and passport in a program effectively selling them to anyone who wanted them although an independent panel probe has since found half were dubious.

He applied during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that saw international travel limited or barred, largely being lifted now although health measures are still in force around the world.

Having a Cypriot residency allowed people to also have the valuable EU passport in return for investing at least 2 million euros ($2.42 million) and be a legal resident even if they have no ties to the country or heritage.

The scheme has mostly been used by rich Chinese and Russian oligarchs, who also have put a fortune into Cypriot banks, with no other reports of wealthy Americans applying.

It could also reap him personal tax breaks but Recode said it's unclear why Schmidt, from Virginia, sought citizenship on Cyprus, but it could be because of business reasons or to have a financial backup plan during the pandemic.

The site Vox said that he could also take advantage of favorable tax rules on Cyprus and media reports in Cyprus said it was granted but a representative for him said there wouldn't be any comment.

Theo Andreou, who heads the Cyprus program for Astons, an “investment immigration firm,” told Vox that that 90 percent of the firm’s clients seek Cyprus citizenship either as a backup plan or an insurance policy due to concerns in their home country, such as the coronavirus, or for financial reasons. Andreou speculated that Schmidt could be making the move for two possible reasons.

“One reason is to have a Plan B during Covid. The other reason is that they are expanding their business in Europe,” he said.

Nuri Katz, the founder of Apex Capital Partners and who has advised the Cypriot government on immigration matters, guessed that Schmidt “feels the need to diversify his citizenship.”

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