NICOSIA – With Cyprus home to some 50,000 Russians, an undisclosed number of Russia’s wealthy were able to obtain residency permits that came with European Union passports under a disgraced and disbanded scheme.
A 192-page report from Cyprus’ Auditor-General said some ministers and Members of Parliament were not fully informed about how the investment program worked before it was found to have been used by criminals and money launderers
The scheme let wealthy foreigners buy the residency permits if they invested at least $500,000 in the country, in which widespread corruption was found and four people facing charges, including two former top politicians.
The Council of Ministers advisory board approved a number of applications knowing they did not meet the criteria, including many by Russian oligarchs and a fugitive from Vietnam, said China Global Television Network (GCTN.)
The report also said investments were not properly reported to the tax office, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in public revenue and that most applicants provided false information to qualify.
Cyprus has refused to reveal any names of who got the permits but the report said at least 3,800 people allegedly family members of applicants also got passports eventhough there was no information about them.
The report also emphasized that the Interior Minister failed on many occasions to provide proper record-keeping although President Nicos Anastasiades kept defending the program as above board.
The EU began investigating the ‘golden visas’ scheme after it was revealed the majority of those applying were from Russia. In 2020 some lawmakers were removed from the advisory board and the program was tightened, excluding citizens from some countries including Russia, noted CGTN.
But EU findings show that in 2021 more than 400 applications were approved and over 100 in 2022 although the program ended in October, 2020, the European Commission saying it will investigate alleged ongoing approvals.