Cyprus’s government broke its own law countless times in granting citizenship to thousands of people in a now discredited passports-for-cash scheme, an official inquiry has found.
In a damning indictment, a government-appointed commission of inquiry said the scheme, from which almost 7,000 people benefited, was running in a vacuum for more than a decade without adequate oversight and with no checks and balances.
Its obvious the Citizenship for Investment programme operated from 2007 to 2020 with gaps and shortcomings, an inadequate legislative framework and almost no regulative framework, stated Myron Nikolatos, an ex-chief justice who headed the inquiry.
The island’s cabinet, responsible for rubber stamping applications, broke the law on countless occasions, Nikolatos said, calling it mass illegality,
Authorities would grant a passport to applicants meeting a minimum investment requirement, which had a price tag of 2 million euros ($2.43 million) in its final form.
A Cypriot passport grants visa-free travel, working and residency rights throughout the 27-nation European Union. The scheme was popular with Russians and investors from Asia.
But more than half the passports should not have been granted, the board of inquiry said, though acknowledging it was now virtually impossible to reverse that. Those passports were issued primarily to family dependants of principal investors for which there was no legal basis, it said.
In 85 other cases, it suggested citizenship be rescinded altogether for either “criminal or other offences”. The individuals were not identified.