Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt is on his way to getting a Cyprus passport after being approved by the government through the now-defunct Citizenship by Investment Scheme.
According to American media outlet VOX, Schmidt, who is one of the wealthiest people in the US, will, along with his family, join over 6,000 foreign investors and their dependents who have received a Cypriot passport.
Forbes magazine ranked him as the 119th-richest person in the world, with an estimated wealth of $11.1 bln in 2017.
The long-time CEO of Google helped make the company into an international powerhouse and served as the tip of the spear of the company’s US lobbying program.
While he stepped down as CEO in 2011 and left the board last year, he still serves as a technical adviser to the company and is one of its largest shareholders.
VOX picked up on a previously unreported public notice in a Cypriot publication in October in which called on anyone to announce if they have any evidence or reason to believe that Schmidt should not obtain Cypriot nationality.
“While it is not clear why exactly Schmidt has pursued this foreign citizenship, the new passport gives him the ability to travel to the European Union, along with a potentially favourable personal tax regime”.
It said it is not uncommon for the world’s wealthy to seek a second nationality that would offer them ways to “maximize their freedoms and finances by relying on the permissive laws of countries where they do not live”.
VOX said interest from Americans in non-American citizenship has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, which has sharply limited Americans’ ability to travel overseas.
It is unusual for Americans investors to apply for a Cyprus passport.
The lion’s share of Cypriot citizenship recipients since 2013 have been wealthy individuals from Russia and China, and other third world countries.
A recent Al Jazeera exposé revealed the identities of 2,500 people who had bought Cypriot citizenship between 2017 and 2019, and only 32, or about 1%, were American nationals.
The Cyprus CIS was not marketed to American investors who, usually, can use their US passports to travel freely in Europe.
The Cyprus program, despite helping save the country after its 2013 bankruptcy by bringing in €7 bln since, has become notorious, especially following Al Jazeera’s recent exposé on how Cypriot politicians tried to help investors with a dodgy past obtain a passport.
A 50-minute video, released by the outlet, allegedly uses an investor described as ‘Mr X’ who is reportedly a convicted Chinese national, living in Hong Kong.
The video showed then parliament speaker Demetris Syllouris, then AKEL MP Christakis Giovanis and a lawyer as the key figures in a passport scam.
Both Syllouris and Giovanis resigned soon after the video was released.
The scheme ended on 1 November, meaning that Schmidt and his family will be some of the last people who are able to take advantage of it.
Schmidt has not said why he was pursuing Cypriot citizenship but likely applied within the last 12 months.