Cyprus will make representations to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in a bid to have its citizenship by investment schemes removed from the high-risk category.
Being on the list effectively paints Cyprus as country where wealthy individuals can go to avoid paying tax.
Sources told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that the Ministry of Finance is preparing additional information about the programme’s citizenship and residency requirements, so the Cypriot programme is taken off the OECD’s blacklist.
Cyprus and Malta are the only EU member-states included on the list of countries that potentially pose high risk to effective implementation of the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard.
On October 16, the OECD published the results of its analysis of over 100 CBI/RBI schemes offered by CRS-committed jurisdictions, identifying those schemes that potentially pose a high-risk to the integrity of CRS.
Marios Skandalis, President of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus (ICPAC) said the Investment Programme is robust and does not jeopardise the transparency of Cyprus as a tax jurisdiction, adding that Cyprus is included in the OECD’s white list of widely compliant states concerning information exchange.
He added that the Cyprus Investment Programme can be considered as a European Programme as it was drafted on the basis of EU guidelines.
“This not an opaque programme which violates the EU transparency principles, the focus should be on the implementation by every member state,” Skandalis told CNA.
“Cyprus not only tried to put in place a good and balanced programme but following the recent reforms approved by the Council of Ministers in May 2018, the programme became one of the strictest in the EU,” he added.
Renamed as the Cyprus Investment Programme, the scheme imposes a maximum period of six months for the processing of an application, a ceiling of 700 naturalisations per year, while it now features a code of conduct governing the programme to avoid abuse, as well as establishing a special committee to supervise the code’s implementation.
“What many do not understand is that not even a cent of capital flows could be processed without the strict scrutiny based on the framework against Anti-money laundering (AML),” Skandalis stated.
“This creates a quite robust framework, that safeguards the country’s transparency and for this reason Cyprus is included in the OECD’s white list of largely compliant countries,” the ICPAC President said.
He also denied reports that Cyprus is a gateway for illegal funds through the investment programme, pointing out that based on the latest data, Cyprus naturalisations correspond to just 0.3% of total naturalisations in the EU.
Skandalis also pointed out that deposits by third-country nationals in the Cypriot banking system declined significantly in recent years, while deposits by Russian nationals have dropped by 40% in the last four years.
“All capital flows, including those of the investment programme, are processed through the AML framework and the Cyprus banking system implements the strictest framework against AML,” he said.
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