CYPRUS: EUR 1.4 mln budget for tighter due diligence on \’golden visa\’ scheme

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Parliament has approved a request from the Interior Ministry to release an annual budget of EUR 1.4 mln over the next three years to carry out tighter checks on citizenship by investment scheme applicants.

The budget was requested by the Ministry of Interior to perform due diligence checks on foreign investors wishing to obtain a Cyprus passport in exchange for an investment of EUR 2.5 mln and above.

The Ministry will use the budget to hire three specialized agencies to conducted enhanced due diligence checks on the naturalization processes. The agencies are to be selected by 21 May, according to a Cabinet decision taken in February.

Currently checks are being carried out on the financial data of prospective investors by the country’s police force in collaboration with Interpol, but Brussels has criticized this regime as not being thorough enough.

Chair of the House’s Finance Committee, Angelos Votsis said "the annual budget of EUR 1.4 mln over the next three years is for the purchase of thorough due diligence services so there is no room for accusations over the Cypriot Investment programme".

He added "the decision of parliament to release funds, and the involvement of these experts, will provide us with strong arguments to fend off those who use various accusations in an attempt to damage the country’s image abroad".

Only Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria offer a passport for investment and after they received heavy EU criticism over allegations of possible tax evasion and money laundering, Sofia said it would no longer adopt the scheme.

Cyprus’ golden visa scheme was launched in the aftermath of the 2013 banking crisis, since then 1,864 citizenships were granted, yielding EUR 6.6 bln.