ECONOMY: Cyprus tightens criteria for golden passport scheme

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In an effort to deflect criticism from the EU and other international bodies over its Citizenship by Investment scheme, Nicosia has further tightened rules for foreign investors eyeing a Cyprus passport.

Cabinet has accepted an Interior Ministry proposal to exclude investors with a high-risk profile from the programme, identified through due diligence procedures carried out by agencies.

The proposal bans people who have either held state office or held public office in the past five years from the passport scheme in a move to display greater transparency.

Furthermore, the passport ban will also apply to those who have been the target of sanctions or linked to legal entities that have had sanctions imposed by the EU or other international institutions such as the United Nations, EUROPOL or INTERPOL.

The cabinet is yet to take a final decision over which international firms will undertake the task of performing the due diligence procedures for issuing a Cypriot passport to foreign investors.

Eight agencies had shown initial interest and three from these eight will be selected.

The golden vise scheme was changed in May, when the government decided to raise the minimum investment required for obtaining a passport from €2 mln to €2.5mln, with applicants having to hold on to their investment for a period of at least 5 years, raising it from 3.

Cyprus adopted the scheme in 2013 as a measure to combat the financial crisis hitting the island, with hundreds of passports issued to investors and their family since.

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said in February that from 2013 to the end of 2018 the government approved 1,864 applications, involving transactions yielding €6.6 bln.