Billionaire Russian and Ukrainian, are among hundreds of people who have acquired EU passports under controversial “golden visa” schemes,in cyprus.
The government of Cyprus has raised more than €4bn since 2013 by providing citizenship to the super rich, granting them the right to live and work throughout Europe in exchange for cash investment. More than 400 passports are understood to have been issued through this scheme last year alone.
Prior to 2013, Cypriot citizenship was granted on a discretionary basis by ministers, in a less formal version of the current arrangement
A leaked list of the names of hundreds of those who have benefited from these schemes, includes prominent business people and individuals with considerable political influence.
The leak marks the first time a list of the super rich granted Cypriot citizenship has been revealed. A former member of Russia’s parliament, the founders of Ukraine’s largest commercial bank and a gambling billionaire are among the new names.
The list sheds light on the little-known but highly profitable industry and raises questions about the security checks carried out on applicants by Cyprus.
European politicians have been watching the sector’s growth with alarm, with some saying the schemes undermine the concept of citizenship. Ana Gomes, a Portuguese MEP, described “golden visas” as “absolutely immoral and perverse”.
I’m not against individual member states granting citizenship or residence to someone who would make a very special contribution to the country, be it in arts or science, or even in investment. But granting, not selling,” she said.
She added that she had attempted several times to obtain the names of golden visa buyers in Portugal, but without success. “Why the secrecy? The secrecy makes it very, very suspicious.”
Later this year the European parliament will debate an amendment tabled by Gomes requiring countries to carry out thorough security checks on “golden visa” applicants. The European Commission recently ordered its own inquiry into whether checks were being properly conducted.
Launched in 2013, Cyprus’ current citizenship-by-investment scheme requires applicants to place €2m in property or €2.5m in companies or government bonds. There is no language or residency requirement, other than a visit once every seven years.
The Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Cyprus said the programme was intended for “genuine investors, who establish a business base and acquire a permanent residence in Cyprus”
They said that stringent checks were conducted on all citizenship by investment applications, with funds required to undergo money laundering checks by a Cypriot bank. They also observed that Cyprus was not the only EU country to have granted citizenship to high net-wealth Russians. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of beneficiaries.
Sourcers the Guardian