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Commission warns Cyprus over ‘golden passports’

January 22, 2019 at 10:26am
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The European Commission has pointed the finger at three member-states, Cyprus Malta and Bulgaria, over their ‘golden passports’ schemes, and sent a  clear warning, according to a draft report obtained by daily Phileleftheros.

The Commission makes clear that it will set up a group of experts that will recommend by the end of the year measures to counter the risks caused by these schemes.

The report, which is expected to be published on Wednesday by the European Union’s executive, notes that there are shortfalls among all three member states in checking the provenance of the wealth of individuals who purchased their citizenship.

In addition, the report underlines that schemes in EU states to sell citizenship or residence to wealthy individuals could help foreign organised crime groups infiltrate the bloc and increase the risk of money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.

The report notes that in Cyprus, Bulgaria and Malta rich foreigners can buy passports for investments ranging between only around 1 million and 2 million euros. Cyprus also requires property on the island to be purchased, while Malta asks for €650,000 to be deposited in its National Investment Fund and an additional investment of up to €150,000.

In Cyprus, the candidate must be present only when receiving the residence permit, says the Commission. But in another point, the report talks about “grey zones” and refers to Cyprus and Malta again saying the application does not have to be submitted personally by the applicant, but that this can be done by a representative.

Nonetheless, the report also mentions some positive steps taken by the Cyprus Government at the suggestion of the Commission, including a provision that for a passport to be granted, a residence permit from the applicant and his family is a must. In the same context, reference is made also to the setting up of a Code of Conduct against the “sale of European citizenship” advertisements, which, was a common practice in Cyprus, according to the Commission.

Pavlos Xanthoulis/Brussels

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