Cyprus are the passport gangsters Europe doesn’t want

7 mins read


Governments don’t normally get things right, they are cumbersome, inefficient and secretive when they want to be, therefore we shouldn’t expect too much by the way of explanation.

Transparency is the widely abused mantra of European democracies where we can, presumably, follow the paper trail and see why a decision was made and under what circumstances.

Politicians only want to show their good side, their compassion. They shun the spotlight when they get it terribly wrong or simply lie their way out of trouble. It should not surprise us; this is human nature.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean we ought to acquiesce if the government is silent, non-responsive and downright disingenuous when straightforward clarity is demanded by public opinion.

Most Cypriots don’t expect the whole unadulterated truth from their government, they understand that backhanders, backscratching and backtracking are the necessary tools of the Cyprus politician.

We are not overly interested in their sticky private lives or advocate they be virtuous, socially responsible adults. Our low expectations of Cypriots in public office defy gravity almost.

The one thing the Cypriot voter (a dying breed) will not stomach is being taken for a fool, ignored or considered a nuisance.

People who run the country feel they don’t need to be bothered by public opinion; they are far too busy with affairs of state to be held accountable to the unwashed electorate.

Which is why the last step a Cyprus government will take is to explain itself when sensitive questions are being asked like why it was so accommodating to Cambodia’s elite tainted with the suppression of democratic rule.

Outsiders picking holes in how we do business is usually brushed aside as vindictive foreigners trying to ruin the good name of Cyprus because we dare to be a thriving economy taking investors from the big table.

In the international annuls of dodgy deals, Cyprus tends to crop up quite a lot, like a secondhand car salesman that just keeps on giving.

Similar to most of us, Cyprus is not the person that it used to be, no longer a tempestuous teenager keeping bad company, led astray by the bright lights of easy money.

Cyprus has abandoned working street corners in its climb to the top, it’s a grown-up country that doesn’t need to hustle for a dollar, we joined the European family – the baddest group on the bloc.

Like any respectable gang, the EU family has rules, a code of behaviour, there is a clear chain of command, so being a maverick is frowned upon.

And that goes for selling EU passports to anyone who rolls up in a flash suit with a bag full of cash no questions asked. Dude that’s not how they roll in the Europe Union.

Cyprus has generated more negative headlines over its cash for passports scheme than a Donald Trump tweet.

When the money men closed our banks, Cyprus had nowhere to go, kicked out of international markets it needed a get-rich-quick scheme, selling passports was the best way forward.

Essentially, the investment scheme was a bribe to get investors to park their money and buy an overpriced property so Cyprus wouldn’t be down at the food bank every Saturday morning while its EU partners were devouring gourmet sushi in the back of a Mercedes.

Like most families, when somebody messes up, they have to suck it up, endure the consequences of their actions.

Cyprus blew up its eurozone economy and the EU Familia was having none of it, they sent in the attack dogs to make us pay with an austerity cheque.

Heads of the 27 families in Brussels were not going to let Nicosia peddle EU passports like it was crack cocaine without turning the thumbscrews.

That’s what they have been doing ever since, applying pressure on the government into getting a modicum of transparency in the investment process.

But while the government assured the world its revised investment scheme was tighter than vacuum-packed halloumi, it was asked to explain how relatives and associates of Cambodia’s leader acquired Cypriot passports.

A report revealed that family members and allies of Cambodia’s long-time prime minister, Hun Sen, have overseas assets worth tens of millions of dollars and have used their wealth to buy foreign citizenship.

AKEL MP Irene Charalambides issued a scathing attack on social media saying the disclosure made Cyprus an international laughingstock.

She demanded answers – the Interior Ministry wouldn’t comment on “individual cases” but did reel off a list of security measures that had been introduced since the last time Cyprus was caught with its pants down.

Eight family members or allies – including Cambodia’s police chief, who has been instrumental in clamping down on dissent, and its finance minister – sought and received Cypriot citizenship in 2016 and 2017, according to a Reuters report.

The European Commission warned in January that “golden passports” could assist organised crime groups to infiltrate Europe and raised the risk of money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.

Don’t fret, the government has everything under control, besides knowing the truth may be the last thing we want to hear. Plausible deniability works for me.