Cyprus passports-for-cash gone for good

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Interior Minister Nicos Nouris told MPs Monday there was not a chance of the government resurrecting the disgraced passport for investment scheme.

He said the Cyprus Investment Programme has been terminated once and for all, there was no going back after the scandals it raised.

Nouris was speaking before the parliamentary committee on financial and budgetary affairs, which discussed his ministry’s 2021 budget of €571 mln.

He said that the ministry will continue to supervise those who have been granted passports and for this reason, existing regulations should not be abolished.

In total, over 6,000 passports have been issued since the scheme was fully launched in 2013 and scrapped on November 1.

Termination of the programme – which generated over €7 bln was based on the advice of the Attorney General, said Nouris.

He said a process is already underway to revoke some citizenships that broke the rules following the suggestions of an investigative committee, while he did not rule out the possibility that more will follow.

Cyprus’ Law Office is also preparing its reply to the European Commission which asked for clarifications concerning the controversial scheme.

In October, the European Commission launched infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta over their investor programs.

These so-called “golden passport” schemes are seen as a gateway for corruption, money laundering, crime and tax evasion by the EU.

Cyprus dropped its scheme after Al Jazeera revealed how prominent politicians were willing to enable wealthy individuals with criminal records to obtain European passports.

Parliament speaker Demetris Syllouris and AKEL MP and real estate developer Christakis Giovanis—both of whom were exposed by Al Jazeera to be key enablers of the scheme—both resigned from their posts.

Nouris noted that 691 applications for naturalisation of investors plus 722 applications for their families are pending examination. Nouris also said that €71 mln is expected to flow into the state coffers from applications for the Cyprus Investment Programme in 2021.