Cyprus is making its controversial citizenship-for-investment scheme more “trustworthy” in response to the European Commission’s concerns that organised crime gangs are using it to infiltrate the bloc.
Cypriot lawmakers have approved a series of tighter checks to make its criticised passport “more targeted and trustworthy”, according to the country’s Finance Minister Harris Georgiades.
As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), a Cyprus passport will now be granted in exchange for an investment of €2.5m, up from €2m, including the purchase of a residency.
Georgiades said new criteria would ensure procedures are more stringent.
What is more, an international agency will review each application and applicants will be required to obtain a Schengen visa.
According to Georgiades, the scheme launched by Cyprus in the aftermath of the island’s 2013 economic crisis has granted 1,864 citizenships and raised €6.6bn.
During the 2016-2019 period, the programme accounted for almost 10% of the island’s total GDP growth of 13 percentage points, according to Georgiades.
As reported by AFP, Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria are the only EU member states which run schemes selling citizenship, while 20 countries sell residence permits.
In a separate report on February 8, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project noted that Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades invited investigators to look into the Gold Visa programme and if they found he was involved, he said, he would go to court – or resign.
“Let the (House) watchdog committee investigate,” Anastasiades told the media outlet ANT1 Wednesday. “If they want to dethrone me, let them investigate, and if any involvement is found I can be brought before a court or even resign.”
The President has been accused of corruption given that the law firm he founded, to which he transferred ownership to two daughters when elected to top office, provides Golden Visa services, while his son-in-law sells properties to Golden Visa buyers.
Haravghi, a Greek newspaper associated with the Cypriot opposition, last week broke the news that businessman Victor Pichugov, one of the richest men in Russia, was recently granted Cypriot nationality via Golden Visa and that his wife also has applied for one.