CYPRUS: Accountants back tighter controls of passport scheme

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The Cyprus Institute of Certified Public Accountants is in favour of maintaining the investments-for-citizenship, backing tighter controls to attract investors who will contribute to the economy not just money in the bank.

ICPAC Chairman Demetris Vakis said the island’s accountancy body, that is involved in education as well as regulation, supports the passport scheme that has received flak after the revelation that Cyprus passports were issued to people on international watchlists or are wanted in their home countries for embezzlement.

“Since 2018, there are stricter and better safety measures, that ensure a more transparent process. But there is no doubt that Cyprus’ reputation has been hurt. We need to fix that,” Vakis said.

He added that of the 700 or so registered individuals and entities handling investment-for-citizenship and residency schemes, only about a tenth are from their profession.

Kyriakos Iordanou, ICPAC’s general manager, said association members want to see substantial and sustainable investments, “with potential foreign investors having real activities on the island.”

He added that the ICPAC is already advising the government and other public departments on how to proceed, that derives mainly from continued education, training and certification of members on all issues of compliance and anti-money laundering, not just tax, audit and advisory issues.

Both Iordanou and Vakis said what is needed is to embark on a targeted promotional campaign to revive the image and reputation of Cyprus as a business and investment centre, and this is at the forefront of ICPAC’s immediate focus.

“It is not the investment scheme that is at fault. But rather the lax regulations we had before and the proper implementation of the current controls,” said Vakis.

The association is already doubling its staff from 12 to 25 this year, handling all the needs and activities of the 5,000 members, as well as the 3,500 trainees and associates.