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Cypriots will not revive cash-for-passports scheme

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Cyprus Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides assured Nicosia will not re-establish the disgraced Cyprus Investment Scheme either in the same or similar format.

The scheme was terminated in November after an expose by Al Jazeera showing that Cypriot officials were involved in securing Cyprus passports for criminals and legal action from Brussels.

“A scheme associated with the previous one cannot be implemented again; the systematic granting of citizenship after a predetermined investment amount without a demand for a connection of the investor with the country in the form of permanent residence,” Petrides said in a lecture.

He acknowledged that the scheme contributed to the reduction of non-performing loans and created thousands of jobs following the 2013 financial crisis.

Petrides also admitted, “the scheme’s focus on the real estate sector was beginning to create imbalances to the detriment of domestic demand”.

In total, over 6,700 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.

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.

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.