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Interior Minister to carry out additional probe into Cambodia elite passports

October 24, 2019 at 4:38pm
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The Interior Minister will carry out an additional investigation into other cases of people who were granted passports under Cyprus’ popular citizenship by investment scheme using the previous criteria.

And a procedure to revoke the citizenship may be activated in accordance with the provisions of the relevant legislation in the case where it is warranted, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said in a written statement on Thursday.

“The Interior Minister will look into certain cases granted citizenship before criteria were reviewed and made stricter,” he said.

“The investigation concerns naturalisation for which additional information has emerged, like the cases in recent reports,” he added.

A Reuters investigation published last week revealed that family members and allies of long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen have overseas assets worth tens of millions of dollars, and have used their wealth to buy foreign citizenship.

The probe in Cyprus will review citizenship granted to eight relatives and persons close to Hun Sen.

Nicosia has had a citizenship for investment plan in place since 2013, under which a minimum 2-million-euro investment can buy a passport and visa-free travel throughout the European Union.

Eight relatives or allies of Hun Sen – including Cambodia’s police chief, who has been instrumental in clamping down on dissent, and its finance minister – sought Cypriot citizenship in 2016 and 2017, Reuters reporting showed.

Hun Sen had previously denied claims from the opposition that members of his inner circle had passports from other countries and lived the high life overseas.

Reuters’ disclosures triggered demands from Cypriot opposition parties for answers from authorities, with the AKEL main opposition party questioning how passports could be given to individuals “who probably couldn’t find Cyprus on the map”.

Opposition parties have again slammed the government’s intentions on this  controversial issue considering that the Interior Minister has been asked to carry out the probe even though it is this specific Ministry that grants out citizenships.

The opposition has asked how the government could investigate itself objectively.

“Cyprus became an international laughing stock and no investigation will remove the stain from our island,” the Greens and Citizens Alliance said in a statement.

AKEL said: “Do they feel any shame or responsibility for the international embarrassment of the country?”

In the five years between the inception of the citizenship scheme and 2018, the Cypriot government approved 1,864 citizenship applications. Including family members, the number was more than 3,200.

The European Commission warned in a January report that what it called “golden passports” could help organised crime groups infiltrate Europe and raised the risk of money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.

 

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