Al Jazeera: Many foreign individuals spent 2.5 million USD to buy Cypriot citizenship

Al Jazeera: Many foreign individuals spent 2.5 million USD to buy Cypriot citizenship 0
Al Jazeera: Many foreign individuals spent 2.5 million USD to buy Cypriot citizenship 0

(Dan Tri) – Leaked documents from the Cyprus government show that the European island nation has sold many citizenships to many foreign individuals, including fraudsters, money launderers or accused of corruption.

Information about Cyprus’s controversial citizenship program was revealed in the investigation `The Cyprus Papers` by Al Jazeera news agency.

The above information was revealed in an investigation by Al Jazeera, a major news agency in the Middle East, through documents it obtained called `The Cyprus Papers`.

“Cyprus Papers” are a number of leaked documents obtained by Al Jazeera’s investigative team, containing more than 1,400 citizenship applications approved by the Republic of Cyprus under the Cyprus Investment Program (CIP).

The program allows foreign nationals to buy Cypriot passports by investing at least 2.15 million euros ($2.5 million) in the island nation.

The Cyprus passport allows the holder to travel freely to 174 countries, making the CIP popular with people from countries where visa-free travel is restricted.

The visa applications seen by Al Jazeera were approved under the CIP program over two years, from 2017 to 2019. Some of the visa applications included family members, making the total number of individuals issued passports

According to Al Jazeera documents, nearly 2,500 were granted so-called “golden citizenship” through the CIP program from more than 70 countries.

Facing a lot of criticism

To get a Cypriot passport, applicants must invest at least 2.15 million euros ($2.5 million) in the Cypriot economy, usually by purchasing real estate, and must have a clean record.

However, applicants must prove their innocence, and although Cypriot authorities claim to check the backgrounds of visa applicants, documents obtained by Al Jazeera show that this is not always the case.

Since its launch in 2013, the CIP program has faced criticism from the EU, which has called for the program to be shut down.

“It is valuable for anyone coming from a country that is involved in a lot of dirty money,” the German lawmaker, a strong critic of the program, told Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera: Many foreign individuals spent 2.5 million USD to buy Cypriot citizenship

Cyprus has earned more than 7 billion euros (8 billion USD) within the framework of the CIP program (Photo: TasteAtlas)

Cyprus has collected more than 7 billion euros ($8 billion) under the CIP program to sustain the island’s slumping economy.

According to Laure Brillaud, a senior policy expert at Transparency International, an NGO specializing in fighting international corruption, the above investigation results are disturbing, but not too surprising.

“These programs have risks of money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.

There is nothing illegal about applying for new citizenship and some countries, including Caribbean island nations, offer this service.

The problem, however, is that turning nationality into a commercial asset creates the risk that individuals could exploit their newfound rights to avoid responsibility from their home countries.

In some cases, Al Jazeera’s investigative team has discovered individuals purchasing Cypriot citizenship shortly before facing criminal charges.

For many of the wealthy individuals in the “Cyprus Files,” the $2.5 million needed to buy a passport is just a small amount of their total assets.

The Cypriot government spoke up

Responding to Al Jazeera’s questions, Eleni Mavrou, a Cypriot MP, said: “The way the program has been implemented over the past few years has clearly allowed a number of circumstances for which the Republic of Cyprus should be ashamed.

Responding to the investigation, the Cypriot government said it had tightened regulations and that each citizenship application submitted under the CIP program had been processed in accordance with the regulations at the time.

Now, Cyprus has also pledged to strip certain individuals of their citizenship if they are found to have committed wrongdoing.

In July 2020, Cyprus passed a law allowing the above tough measures to occur.

“I believe that the new regulations will not allow illegal actions or overstep boundaries that a country should respect,” Mr. Nouris said.

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