Cyprus files first lawsuit over investment passport scheme News from Europe

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The action against five natural persons and four legal persons was carried out on the basis of the conclusions of an ad hoc committee.

Cyprus has filed its first criminal prosecution over a controversial investment passport scheme abolished last year after Al Jazeera corruption exposed, according to the state legal service.

“The first criminal case relating to the naturalization of foreign investors and businessmen was registered in the Larnaca district court,” he said in a statement on Friday.

The action against five natural persons and four legal persons, facing a total of 37 charges, was carried out on the basis of the conclusions of an ad hoc committee, he said, without giving names.

The legal service said no “delicate details” would be disclosed due to the “seriousness” of the investigation.

“Golden Passport”

Last November, Cyprus abandoned its so-called “golden passport” scheme after Al Jazeera TV aired a documentary showing journalists posing as a Chinese businessman looking for a Cypriot passport despite having a criminal record.

Parliament Speaker Demetris Syllouris and an opposition politician were secretly filmed in an attempt to provide a passport to the runaway investor.

They later resigned, although they both insisted they were innocent of any wrongdoing.

Al Jazeera reported that dozens of other people who applied were under criminal investigation, international sanctions or even serving prison sentences.

Nicosia had long since taken pressure from Brussels to reform the scheme out of concerns that could help organized crime gangs infiltrate the European Union.

Cyprus had argued that investment was essential after the island’s economic downturn in 2013.

Thousands of documents

Nicosia issued thousands of passports under the plan, which allowed applicants to purchase one in exchange for a $ 3 million investment.

Approximately 51% of the 6,779 passports issued in 2007-2020 were intended for recipients who should not have been qualified, according to the provisional findings of an independent investigation.

He said authorities had rubber-stamped citizenship applications without having followed due process or proper background checks.





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