Interior Ministry not allowing ‘last-minute’ citizenship

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The Interior Ministry defended itself on Friday against allegation it had received hundreds of applications from foreign investors eyeing to grab a Cyprus passport at the last minute after the scheme was terminated on 1 November.

In a statement, the ministry said between 13 October, when the government decided it would terminate the Citizenship for Investment Scheme, and 1 November, it had received just 105 applications from investors and another 311 for their dependants.

It argued that despite publishing the official data repeatedly, “unfortunately the distortion of the figures continues, resulting in the creation of wrong impressions”.

The Interior Ministry had said there were 586 applications in total pending as part of the citizenship by investment programme.

On Tuesday, it announced that the number had risen to 691 from 586 on September 30 with the addition of 105 applications.

The ministry argued that the number of applications from dependants did not appear out of thin air, as some people suggested since dependants always had the right to benefit from the scheme.

“Specifically, we said that the applications from dependants rose from 411 on September 30, to 722 on November 1.”

The decision to scrap the programme followed a ‘gotcha’ video broadcast by Al Jazeera whose undercover journalists filmed then-House Speaker Demetris Syllouris and Akel MP Christakis Giovanis appearing ready to help a Chinese businessman with a criminal record secure a Cypriot passport.

Both Syllouris and Giovanis have since resigned while police have launched an investigation into the allegations.

Under the investment scheme, from 2013 to mid-August 2020, the government granted passports to 3,147 investors and another 3,177 to members of their families. That’s a total of 6,324 passports – higher than the estimated 4,000 issued.