A House emergency bill that could allow authorities to revoke dozens of Republic of Cyprus “golden passports” is said to eliminate grey areas that so far prevented the state from revoking ill-gotten investor citizenships.
According to Interior Minister Nikos Nouris, the Republic’s passport-for-cash scheme was being strengthened under a new government bill approved by the Cabinet earlier this week.
Nouris said the new scheme would be “one of the toughest” in the world, adding after the law gets passed there could be sinister motives if critics continued efforts to bring the scheme into disrepute.
“The new regulations no longer leave the program open to ridicule, as some have done in the recent past, and leave no doubt as to its credibility,” Nouris said.
The main feature of the new bill is the introduction of tougher anti-money laundering checks, according to the minister, who said anti-money laundering rules will be used to bolster the vetting of prospective investors or even revoke citizenships under specific criteria.
Last year the government moved to revoke the citizenship of 26 foreign investors but legal obstacles emerged as rights of citizens could have been violated
Last year the Cypriot government moved to revoke the citizenship of 26 foreign investors from several countries after reports emerged that the individuals had possibly broken the rules.
But the revocation did not go forward as planned due to legal obstacles that experts warned could violate the rights of citizens.
Government officials believe the amended law, if passed, would provide a set of rules allowing the state to revoke citizenship in cases where an offence was committed more than five years ago in any country.
According to local media, the new rules would also make it possible for the Republic to rescind passports for investors and their dependants if the primary holders are wanted by Interpol or Europol or have been placed iunder international sanctions.
Investors will still need to shell out €2 million into the Cypriot economy and buy a residence worth at least €500,000.
But Nouris said that under the new rules, investors will have a wider array of investment choices, like buying up stock in Cypriot companies.
Local reports suggested close to 30 investment passports could be in jeopardy based on the proposed legislation, as additional tools in the bill would allow authorities to check for violations going as far back as ten years.
Some 4000 passports have been issued to investors under the program, generating at least €7 billion euros since 2013. An annual cap at 700 is expected to be introduced if the new legislation is approved in parilament.