Cyprus to strip 26 investors of “citizenship-by-investment” passports

The Cyprus Council of Ministers recently approved the withdrawal of 26 passports obtained through the country’s citizenship-by-investment (CIB) scheme. Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said the move was a result of a lack of rigour in the original regime, an issue that was now being addressed.

The CIB programme was introduced in 2013 and requires a minimum investment of €2 million to acquire a Cypriot passport and visa-free travel throughout the EU. Prior to 2018, the Cypriot government approved 1,864 citizenship applications. Including family members of applicants, the total number of passports issued exceeded 3,200,

The programme had been amended several times but was comprehensively strengthened in February 2019 with the introduction of five different due-diligence layers, compared to one in 2013.

Petrides was tasked with scrutinising all successful CIB scheme entrants up to 2018. “It would make sense that there would be some problems when the controls were not rigorous, and we have the determination to look at those cases,” he said. “Mistakes were made, such as the fact that we had no criteria, for example, for high-risk people.”

The Reuters news agency reported that the rescission of passports applied to nine separate investments that included citizenship for 26 family members – nine Russians, eight Cambodians, five Chinese, two Kenyans, one Malaysian and one Iranian national.

“Cases like this are often used by critics of CIB programmes to call for the Cyprus CIB and other similar programmes to be stopped or to suggest that people should avoid them because their citizenship could be revoked in the future,” said Ceri Pratley, Sovereign Group’s Residency and Citizenship Consultant.

“The opposite is in fact true. It shows instead that the Cyprus CIB scheme has matured and that the government of Cyprus is taking proper account of the European Commission’s concerns in acting to ensure that mistakes are prevented in future.

“As with all of our services, Sovereign applies the correct due diligence procedures and cases such as these in Cyprus only prove the value for clients of using a professional firm. Provided clients meet the qualification standards and requirements, they have nothing to fear.”

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