The President’s Cabinet in the Republic of Cyprus has approved at least 390 golden passport applications despite European warnings after the program was scrapped last year, with Interior Minister Nicos Nouris saying he has already explained the logic to the European Commission but hasn’t heard back yet.
Nouris, who presented his ministry’s budget before the House finance committee on Monday, said until 31 July 2021 he had forwarded 1413 applications to the Cabinet, referring to cases submitted through the country’s disgraced citizenship by investment program that stopped taking new applicants in November 2020.
According to Kathimerini Cyprus, the minister said 691 were petitions by investors while 722 were dependant applications, adding that 1023 were rejected and 390 had been approved.
'We have given all the explanation that needed to be given and we expect to hear back in the coming weeks' Nouris told member of the committee
In June 2021, the European Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Cyprus for failing to address earlier concerns, giving Nicosia two months to explain what measures it had taken to comply with EU laws or face legal ramifications.
"While Cyprus has repealed its scheme and stopped receiving new applications on 1 November 2020, it continues processing pending applications," the Commission had said in a a statement.
EU’s executive officials have Cyprus and Malta in their sights over allegations of corruption in cash-for-passports schemes, while last year Brussels kicked off a legal process against the two island members that could result in fines.
Back in August, the Cypriot minister said the government had responded to the Commission within the allotted time in a response drafted in collaboration between his office, the foreign ministry, and the Legal Department headed by Attorney General George Savvides.
Savvides, who served on the President’s Cabinet before becoming the nation’s top legal advisor and chief law enforcer in summer 2020, has also tasked a foreign legal powerhouse to assist with the response according to local media.
The response, which was reportedly sent 5 August just days before the deadline, would be evaluated by the European Commission, which would then have two options, either terminate the legal proceedings against Nicosia or take the country to court.
“We have given all the explanation that needed to be given and we expect to hear back in the coming weeks,” Nouris told members of the finance committee.
Last year Nicosia said it suspended its citizenship program for investors after Al Jazeera published the results of an undercover investigation, which led to political resignations on the island as well as disagreement between state officials regarding investigations into allegations of corruption.