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The Cyprus Passport by Investment Scheme: at Who's Expense?

November 27, 2017

Cyprus Minister of Finance Mr Harris Georgiades released a statement condemning critics of the Cyprus passport by investment programme that has seen raise over €4 billion since the launch of the scheme in 2013 which was implemented to attract foreign investment to mitigate damage in light of the banking crisis.

Mr Georgiades has been responding to reports that the Cypriot government have been granting citizenship to Russian oligarch billionaires and members of the Ukrainian super rich; including a former member of Russia’s parliament and the founders of Ukraine’s largest commercial bank were named on a list of prominent businessmen and those with substantial political influence who have been granted Cypriot citizenship.

“The Cypriot state does not receive a single euro; it is an investment scheme, Cyprus is an open economy and an attractive investment destination and in cases of genuine, reliable investments, it can, under conditions, offer the Cypriot passport,” Georgiades said.

The European parliament will debate an amendment tabled by Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes requiring countries to carry out comprehensive security checks on golden visa scheme candidates. The EC also started its own inquiry as to whether checks were being accurately carried out.

Arguments against the investor programme

European politicians have been watching the growth of this type of visa throughout Europe with some saying the schemes undermine the concept of citizenship; with Ms Gomes has described golden visa schemes as “absolutely immoral and perverse”.

Many join her in their concerns about the high level of publicity which allows wealthy yet perhaps lawfully undesirable inhabitants. Such passport- and visa-for-investment schemes have attracted some unwelcome publicity in recent years.

Experts have criticised how the schemes have been conveniently launched and expanded exponentially in the wake of a financial crisis in the Eurozone, so it appears that the answer comes in the form of exchanging liquidity for security. Others also disapprove, stating that such programmes give the rich an unfair advantage over ordinary and local people.

Arguments in favour of the investor programme

The finance ministry has upheld that the scheme was always planned for honest investors, who establish a genuine business base and acquire a permanent residence in Cyprus. With all circumstances for obtaining citizenship continued to be set by national law and closely monitored by EU legislation.

“Several exaggerations are being heard concerning Cyprus’ scheme for the naturalisation of investors; the scheme in actual fact is very small both at Cypriot and European levels, as investor naturalisations do not surpass 0.3% of the overall naturalisations at European level Mr Georgiades furthered.

Over 400 passports have been issued through the scheme in 2016 alone; with these figures showing there is little to warrant concerns voiced by experts that applications view the scheme as a fast-track to settle in other EU countries. Currently less that than 2,000 people have attained a Cyprus passport by investment since the schemes launch in2013; with accordingly only 2 moving on to other EU destinations since.

The government has also maintained that arduous screening of candidates takes place with the support of international law enforcement agencies to ensure no applicants could create a risk to the island’s or Europe’s security, with any with criminal record candidates being automatically rejected.

The investment scheme is at the complete discretion of the Cyprus cabinet, concerning investors who have forged real ties with the country, have permanent residence, and made actual investments.

He added that to receive a Cypriot passport people undergo a series of checks as they must have a clean criminal record, and give details as to where their investment funds originated. So as long as the scheme isn’t welcoming dirty money or criminals to settle in Europe, it looks like a win-win for all parties involved.

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