Cyprus’ cabinet on Wednesday decided to revoke 26 passports granted to investors under its much-criticised Citizenship for Investment scheme.
After a four-hour meeting, the cabinet decided to strip 26 investors of their Cypriot citizenship as they were found to violate the required criteria, said Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides on Wednesday.
Petrides said that procedures for revoking the passports have begun, while the government is setting up a committee to examine the rest of the applications filed up to the end of 2018.
The committee will consist of the Auditor General, the Chair of the Cyprus Securities Commission and a representative of the State Legal Services.
Petrides said that investors being stripped of their Cypriot citizenship will have the right to appeal.
The Minister fired back at unfair criticism saying out of some “4,000 applications there were only nine cases of problematic applications which concerned 26 people in total”.
The Minister did, however, acknowledge that “the government had made mistakes due to the lack of criteria for high-risk applicants”.
He added that with tighter criteria introduced in 2018, there is a continuous evaluation of applicants.
He also noted that "because the above tools were not available at the beginning, applications approved before 2018 will be re-evaluated within the framework of the current system”.
The move comes after the government came under intense pressure following allegations that members of Cambodia’s political elite and a fugitive Malaysian financier received Cypriot EU passports under an investment scheme.
The Cabinet also reaffirmed the Government's commitment to strict compliance with the terms and conditions of the Cyprus Citizenship for Investment Programme.
The cabinet has also decided to table a bill making it illegal to advertise the country’s passport scheme.
It is believed that Malaysian multi-billionaire Jho Low is amongst the 26 on the list to be stripped of Cypriot citizenship.
Jho Low is allegedly involved in a multi-billion-dollar scandal that broke out in 2015 when he was managing an investment firm named 1Malaysia Development Berhad headed by the then prime minister of Malaysia Najib Razak.
According to a Bloomberg report, Low allegedly created a series of shell companies through which he channelled hundreds of millions, many of which ended up in his accounts. He denies any wrongdoing.
An expose by Cypriot daily Politis, said that as soon as the scandal broke in 2015, in which 30 executives of the US investment firm Goldman Sacs were said to be involved.
He submitted a request to become a Cypriot citizen in exchange for a EUR 5 mln investment, reportedly, through the international law firm Henley & Partners. Low had bought a villa in Ayia Napa.
In a statement Henley & Partners categorically states that "Low has never been a client".
Meanwhile, Malaysian police said on Wednesday that fugitive financier Low is attempting to purchase properties in Cyprus under a different name.
Information on Low’s efforts to buy real estate in Cyprus was gathered after a series of arrests, Malaysia’s police chief Abdul Hamid Bador told a news conference.
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