Cyprus announced on Wednesday that it will withdraw Cypriot passports and citizenship from three investors and seven of their dependents following an investigation into the “Golden Passport” scheme.
In total, from October 2021 until today, the cabinet has initiated the withdrawal of citizenship from 60 investors and 159 of their dependants.
The government granted passports to more than 7,000 people under the Golden Passport scheme which was finally axed in late 2020 after a series of scandals related to the scheme came to light.
An expose by Al Jazeera depicted the then-speaker of the House suggesting there would be no problem in securing a passport for a fictitious Chinese investor with a criminal record.
Also, media reports exposed the scandal of Malaysian businessman Jho Low who had been granted a Cypriot passport after buying a luxury villa in the resort of Ayia Napa. He was being accused of being the key player in a multi-billion-dollar theft from a Malaysian state investment fund.
The EU had also criticized Cyprus and called for a halt to the program. There is concern that the so-called Golden Passports may be easily used as a backdoor into the European Union for criminal gangs or government officials to launder huge sums of money or to evade taxes.
Suspects of ‘Golden Passport’ scandal to stand trial in Cyprus
Four key players allegedly involved in the scandal – two of whom are leading protagonists in Al Jazeera’s undercover report – will stand trial in the criminal court on October 26, Cyprus Mail reported on Wednesday.
The defendants are former House president Demetris Syllouris, former Akel MP and developer Christakis Giovanis, senior lawyer for the Giovanis Group Antonis Antoniou and lawyer Andreas Pittadjis, says the Cypriot daily.
Two official investigations have said the scheme ran without adequate oversight, with one report suggesting some investment transactions could have been fictitious.