NICOSIA – With worries Cyprus is selling off residency permits to foreign investors who could be using them for money laundering and to hide cash, the country’s lawmakers will review whether Parliament should be involved in who gets them.
The so-called Golden Visa, also known as citizenship-by-investment, lets the wealthy of other countries buy permits that give them travel within the 28-country European Union amid concerns the program is also hiding criminal activity.
A bill which would give Parliament a say in the criteria governing the issuance of Cypriot passports to foreign investors was filed by the Greens Party and is expected to go before the plenary session on Jan. 12, said the Cyprus Mail.
It would require that the guidelines that have to met before the visas are approved must be first submitted to Parliament before being published in the government gazette, adding another layer of oversight.
The Interior Ministry is opposed to the scheme, arguing that it take away flexibility it said the government needs without explaining what that meant. The Greens tabled the proposal after another bill they had submitted – mandating the publishing of the names of foreign investors granted passports – was rejected.
Dismissing criticism his country is selling Golden Visas to rich foreigners, without vetting them for money laundering and other crimes, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades earlier said the finger should be pointed at other countries for doing the same.
The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said some of the visas are being used for criminal means, including tax evasion as the country is fighting a reputation for being a tax hideout haven.
“It cannot be that Cyprus is being targeted, with this criticism being echoed by certain advocates within Cyprus for political expediencies,” Anastasiades said in an interview with TV One channel.
“There was much clamoring for publishing the lists of the providers, and they were given. And where was all the attention focused? On my former law firm,” he said.
He said of the thousands of applications for the citizenship-by-investment program filed by various companies and law firms on behalf of foreign nationals, only 41 were filed by the former firm which nears his name.
“I told the [Interior) Minister to release the data … so that we can finish with this story. And I cannot abide insinuations when these are unjustified. Instead of appreciating the benefits to the country’s economy, we are looking to target political personalities or politically exposed persons, regardless whether this serves the interests of people who write for the Guardian or other newspapers accusing the Republic of Cyprus.”
That was in reference to the British newspaper and other media reporting on potential abuses in the visa program where questions where also raised in the European Parliament by Romanian MEP Victor Bostinaru, whose country’s government faces accusations of being corrupt.