The government of Cyprus intends to suspend the issuing program of the so-called golden passports, i.e. granting citizenship of the country in return for investments, government spokesman Kyriakos Kushos announced on Tuesday.
According to the CNA agency, criticized e.g. by the European Commission, the program is to be suspended "as it stands", but it is not clear whether the Cypriot authorities will abandon it altogether. As reported on Twitter by the Cyprus President's office, the decision relates to "weaknesses and the abuse of the rules of the program."
The decision was made after, as part of a journalistic provocation, Al-Jazeera's reporters recorded the speaker of the Cypriot parliament, Demetris Sylluris, who offered to help someone claiming to be a Chinese criminal in obtaining a Cypriot passport. Sylluris announced on Tuesday that he would suspend his duties while the case was being investigated.
So far, to obtain the citizenship of Cyprus, it was enough to invest at least EUR 2 million in the country and meet a number of other formal requirements, although these criteria were not always followed.
In August, a journalistic Al-Jazeera investigation revealed that Cyprus "sold" passports to criminals, money laundering agents and politicians accused of corruption from over 70 countries, most of them Russia, Ukraine, China and the Middle East.
In September, EU Rule of Law Commissioner Didier Reynders announced that he would consider initiating proceedings against Cyprus regarding the so-called golden passports.
Besides Cyprus, two other EU Member States also offer citizenship for money: Malta and Bulgaria. In both cases, these programs raised many suspicions and doubts. (PAP)