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End of an era for “golden passports”

November 8, 2019 at 11:35am
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It seems that the recent furore over the Mediterranean island’s investment for citizenship plan has paved the way for the end of an era for Cyprus’ so-called golden passports.

Insiders believe that recent developments which also include the government’s  decision to revoke a number of passports are yet another blow to the plan, interest for which began to weaken since last May. That was when new, stricter criteria were introduced.

Announcement that new criteria would be introduced had prompted a rushed number of applications to be submitted at the time so as to be reviewed before the new rules would come in effect.

At the same time, potential new investors did not even bother to apply since they knew they would be excluded for the start.

Undoubtedly, the recent defamation of Cyprus regarding this is likely to discourage serious investors from coming here or even prompt some to withdraw their interest, be it in the investment programme or, even worse, in other types of investment they were considering.

Even the timing of the recent “storm” is very bad, since in about a month the European Commission will announce common rules for member states providing such programmes.

Indications are that this will not be a mere announcement but will be followed by a slap against those countries that have taken advantage of granting European citizenship to third parties for financial gain.

At the same time, the much-anticipated and very significant Moneyval report will be issued mainly focusing on the country’s progress in combatting money laundering. In the last few days and until the beginning of December, negotiations to improve the draft report are ongoing.

These began a few days ago and will continue up until beginning of December when the Moneyval report will be officially released. And obviously damning reports on controversial cases of passports handed out that have been revealed are anything but helpful.

Additional checks that will be carried out on some 2000 cases of individuals who have received Cypriot citizenship before 2018, could lead to more passports being revoked.  In addition, issues may arise for some of the service providers or intermediaries in the application process as well.

Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides told state radio yesterday that they came across a case of forged documents. Therefore, additional checks and balances are also inevitable for service providers.

According to the information available from the Supervisory and Audit Committee on the Cyprus Investment Programme, a total of 623 persons are licensed to provide such services. The threshold set is 700 naturalizations per year. The numbers show that interest in a piece of the pie was strong.

The list of licensees includes land developers, legal and audit firms, professional services companies and so on. The question is whether all these providers were subject to some scrutiny by the Supervisory Committee after they were licensed following attendance at a seminar or not.

Information is already available on the market regarding the fees charged and also for individuals who provided naturalization services and did not hold the relevant license.

On Thursday, the Interior Minister called for the preservation of the good name of Cyprus, something which he said is the responsibility of us all.

Speaking before Land Development Entrepreneurs, he reiterated that mistakes were made, noting that the control system that governs the programme is currently “one of the strongest in the world” with five control systems.

By Antonis Antoniou