Sunday

17th Feb 2019

EU monitoring Cyprus passport sales

  • Cyprus was already a hotspot for Russian tourists and investors (Photo: Marco Fieber)

The European Commission has said it is in a "dialogue" with Cyprus amid concerns on loopholes in its passport sale scheme.

A Commission spokesman said on Monday (18 September) that the EU executive started the talks in 2014 to make sure that a "genuine link" existed between buyers of Cypriot passports and the island state.

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"As a result of this dialogue, Cyprus revised their [passport sale] law in late 2016", but the "dialogue remains ongoing," he said.

He noted that issuing passports was a national competence.

But he added that since obtaining a passport from any one of the 28 EU states entailed getting rights, such as freedom of movement or capital, in all the others "member states should use their prerogative to award or withdraw citizenship in a spirit of sincere cooperation".

He also said it was a "principle in international law" that passport applicants should have such a "genuine link" to their new host state.

The Cypriot passport scheme requires people to visit the country at least once every seven years and to invest at least €2 million in real estate or €2.5 million in Cypriot stocks or bonds.

There is no language or residency requirement.

According to The Guardian, a British newspaper, Cyprus has raised over €4 billion via the scheme since 2013 and sold more than 400 passports last year.

It said, citing internal Cypriot documents, that several passports were sold last year to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs with a sensitive political profile.

The Cypriot finance ministry told The Guardian it carried out anti-money laundering type checks on applicants.

It said the scheme was for "genuine investors, who establish a business base and acquire a permanent residence in Cyprus".

It also said other EU states had similar programmes.

It did not name them, but Hungary, Malta, and Portugal, among others, also have similar schemes.

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