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Friday 10th July 2020
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Citizenship scheme shrouded in secrecy

Citizenship by investment scheme shrouded in secrecyTHE LEADER of the Greens Giorgos Perdikis is absolutely right to demand transparency in the citizenship by investment scheme that the Anastasiades government introduced in order to attract funds from abroad when Cyprus was deep in recession.

It was a good plan for desperate times and together with the tourism industry helped put the economy back on the recovery path, but it also led to bad press abroad, Cyprus being accused of selling EU passports to wealthy foreigners.

This was not good for a country that had taken all the necessary legal measures to clean up its act, consign its reputation for money laundering to the past and market itself as a reputable centre for international business. In order to maintain a good reputation, it needs to show that its citizenship by investment scheme is subject to strict criteria and rules and is not cash-generating trick for auditing firms, law firms, developers and politicians. And the only way to silence those accusing Cyprus of trading in naturalisations, as Perdikis said, is through transparency.

The Greens have prepared a bill that would oblige the state to disclose information about the procedures followed and the criteria. “We must take effective steps to strengthen and protect this instrument of attracting investment, shielding democracy with transparent procedures,” said Perdikis and it is difficult to disagree with him. Procedures should be transparent, as this would force the authorities to be more stringent when examining applications.

Another deputy at the House interior committee, Pavlos Mylonas, demanded the legislature was informed of politicians’ involvement in companies arranging citizenships. Presumably, he was concerned that a politician would use his power to persuade officials to grant applications even when the criteria were not satisfied. He also wanted to know the names of the law and auditing firms providing this service, as they also have strong ties with government and politicians.

This is another reason in support of Perdikis’ demand for transparency. At present there is none. Citizenships are granted by the state in secrecy, allowing scope for corruption, bending of rules and violations of the criteria. This could easily be overcome if there is a provision in Perdikis’ law for the publication of the name of every individual, who has been granted citizenship, in the official gazette of the Republic. An interior ministry official used the ludicrous excuse that this could not be done because it would be a violation of personal data! This is not just a nonsensical reason, it raises suspicions that the state wants to cover up dubious decisions.

This gives the impression that the issuing of citizenship by the state is some clandestine activity that must be shrouded in secrecy. What third-country national, with a good reputation, would object to his or her name being made public once their application is approved? If they object to public disclosure their application should be rejected. When they are informed that transparency was a provision of the law, nobody could claim that publication of names was a violation of personal data.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Kyriacos

    Just for the record I think the net migration figures you have quoted are actually the net EU migration figures and not the number of U.K. Passports issued to non EU citizens
    The actual numbers are only available by making a “Freedom of Information” request (a facility which is not available in the RoC) to HM Passports office as the last retrievable data on this was collated from the 2011 census.

    Please see the link – Net migration from EU drops below 100,000 for first time since 2013.

  2. Kyriakos,

    Please see the link below only UK visas are issued and property is not a permitted area to qualify.

    Also after the initial Tier1 investment a permanent leave to stay may be granted after 5 years

    Just to be clear – Tier 1 (Investor) visa.

  3. Ah yes, we finally find a brilliant way to pump money into the country, now lets all gather around and ruin it!

  4. Martin,
    I totally agree about the source of funds etc. I’m 100% with you.

    I just did not like the fact that this article implied corruption on behalf of the authorities. I found that totally ungrounded …

  5. Get Real, you are soooo wrong about the UK passports. Only if you knew what your Government does …

  6. The point Kyriacos makes regarding the issue of total UK passports is that most of them will have been issued to asylum seekers and not traded for cash and influence by purchasing land or property recommended by the lawyers handling the applications, whom probably get a bung from the owners for selling it as part of the deal.

    These are also about U.K. Residency and not a vehicle to gain EU Citizenship .

    The four P’s are the main Cypriot output ” Potatoes, Passports, Property & Poppycock “

  7. The process must be more transparent. I have recently moved from Malta, which operates a similar scheme and the exact same issues are being raised.

    Personal details of the applicant, of course, cannot be released, but it must be clearly shown that the person and the funds are completely legitimate.

    Secrecy only generates mistrust and suspicion, whether justified or not and there will always be a cloud over Cyprus until it is removed.

  8. Costas my friend, these are the exact same procedures followed by every democratic country in the world.

    I head a large international immigration firm, and we recently issued 30 UK passports for our clients for investing heavily into permitted developments in Slough, someone west of London. The record of my clients are private and the UK Government does not share these with anyone.

    Having experienced the above, i wonder why a portal run by UK citizens would criticise the Cyprus Authorities for not sharing private information.

    Even worse, I really wonder why the same portal in the same argument would clearly imply that the Cyprus Authorities are corrupted.

  9. It was an interesting article about Transparency International. It seems to me from reading it (though I don’t know how much bias there was in the reporting) that the whole issue of fiscal ‘transparency’ (or lack, thereof) is an issue across the globe.

    Whether Cyprus was unfairly dismissed from T.I. or not is one issue. What would be more impressive (at least to me) is if Kapardi and Skandalis ceased wound licking quickly and turned the “newly formed” Cyprus Integrity Forum directly onto Alpha Bank Cyprus. If there is one organisation that needs some clarity over what integrity means – it’s that shower.

  10. “Citizenship by investment” what’s wrong with it? The €2 million investment should be reduce to €750,000 with a minimum stay on the Island of 185 days, anyone with this sort of ready cash surly is a credible person, regarding transparency I believe the immigration office and the banks are carrying out its due diligence.

    The Rock can do with more population.

  11. Couldn’t agree more. In order to shift the perspective of foreign investors regarding Cyprus’ way of doing business, transparency is key.

    The government should also impose stricter rules on property acquisition, including accepting applications only if the underlying property underwent an independent valuation, limiting the sale of overvalued Limassol properties which have created an unsustainable bubble.

    This will also limit the huge commissions paid to unscrupulous brokers who couldn’t care less if they are selling overpriced assets with total disregard for investor interests

  12. Ooh, Kyriakos, this article seems to have touched one of your, apparently very well informed, nerves?

    The glaring flaw in your argument is that a passport application by a legal citizen of a democratic country is different than a passport purchase by someone who is not a citizen of that country or of the European Union that it is a member of.

    Unfortunately, when you add this lack of transparency to the track record of Cyprus, when it comes to making money in any way it can, legal or otherwise, then you should be able to understand people’s concerns.

    If you are sure that transparency will not reveal any dubious activities, or lesser spotted brown envelopes, then what is your problem with this scheme being made more transparent?

  13. It’s private information. Have you ever heard of the Information Privacy law???

    Ed: Please read the last paragraph of the article. (Incidentally, when I was in business my company had an open book policy enabling members of staff to see what all their colleagues were earning).

  14. This is absurd!

    It goes without saying that a passport application of any citizen in any Democratic country (including the UK) should be strictly private business between himself and the specific government.

    Do you imply that the 118,000 new passports issued by the UK Government last year were a result of corruption and bent rules.

    I find this article ridiculous and with a secret agenda.

    The EU issued 841,000 new passports last year, out of which 551 were issued by Cyprus according to the Naturalisation-by-Investment programme.
    Do the maths!
    0.059%
    Our time discussing this is not even worth it.

    Ed: What’s the problem in transparency. Keeping things secret makes people suspicious (even though everything is OK).

Comments are closed.

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