Tighter rules for Cyprus ‘golden passport’ scheme

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Cyprus’ cabinet on Wednesday approved tighter rules for its tarnished citizenship for investment programme by tying the scheme to anti-money laundering legislation.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris told reporters following the cabinet meeting that the regulations will be sent to the House to be voted in as a matter of urgency.

Nouris said linking of the scheme to anti-money laundering law was an important provision which would help in the execution and assessment of applications.

“The interconnection of the regulations and consequently of the program itself to the law on money laundering is an important provision which will also, in turn, help in processing and examining applications,” Nouris said.

He added that tightening of regulations also include clear provisions for revoking citizenship if the investor in question is found to be involved in or commits a serious crime.

Asked to comment on whether the European Union had pressured Cyprus to regulate its CIS, Nouris said: “Cyprus has every right to take its decisions regarding its CIS, just like any EU country has when it comes to their own investment program”.

“We have nothing to hide. We are rather aiming at clearing the scheme from rumours portraying Cyprus to have abused its CIS”.

He argued that once the regulations are studied and voted in, there will be no room left for such accusations.

Nouris reminded that the government had already introduced a ceiling of 700 applications per year from foreign investors.

Asked whether the program had weaknesses, Nouris argued that a probe carried out showed that no regulations had been violated in the past.

“We consider that by interconnecting the Cypriot investment scheme and the law the Central Bank of the Republic applies on money laundering, we are making the scheme more credible so that any suspicions cease to exist,” said Nouris.

Cyprus offers an EU passport for an investment of at least €2 mln – it is one of the few member states to do so.

Last year the EU told member states to tighten checks on non-EU nationals seeking passports via investments.

Brussels is concerned that the so-called “golden passports” may be a backdoor into the EU for criminal gangs or government officials to launder huge sums or evade tax.