Cyprus to revoke ‘golden passports’ granted to 45 people after probes expose corrupt scheme

Cyprus has initiated proceedings to remove 39 foreign nationals and six members of their families from the citizenship granted under its program …

Cyprus has initiated proceedings to remove 39 foreign nationals and six members of their families from the citizenship granted under its program for canceled passport investment.

A government statement said the Council of Ministers had decided to overturn a previous decision to grant citizenship to a foreign investor and “dependent family member”.

No further information was given about the identity of those who would lose their citizenship. The council is due to investigate six more cases and monitor a further 47 cases.

The European Commission will be notified, the government says. The EU has held the island nation in the Eastern Mediterranean to account for the program, which started in 2008 but was launched in 2013 after a financial crisis.

The program brought in more than 8 billion euros and proved to be particularly attractive for foreign investors, as receiving an EU passport gave them access to the 27-member block.

The decision to revoke citizenship comes on the recommendation of an independent commission that examined the program after it was abolished last year. This followed an undercover television report that showed the Speaker of Parliament and a powerful lawmaker claiming they could circumvent the rules of granting citizenship.

The promise was made to a reporter who posed as a representative of a fictional Chinese investor who had been convicted of fraud in his country. Both resigned shortly after the report aired.

In its final conclusions earlier this year, the commission found that the Cypriot government continued to illegally issue passports to relatives of wealthy investors under the program for at least four years, despite the prosecutor general’s two separate warnings that doing so could be against the law .

During its 13-year period, the program granted 6,779 citizenships – more than half of them to family members of the investors.

Commission chief and former President of the Supreme Court, Myron Nicolatos, said the program had operated “without a legal framework and almost no regulatory framework” throughout its life, while there was no “adequate oversight of existing laws and regulations”.

The revelations weakened Cyprus’ reputation amid allegations of endemic corruption and stabbed the government of President Nicos Anastasiades, which had vociferously defended the program.

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