IN A LETTER seen by Reuters, the European Commission’s director-general for justice Tiina Astola sent a letter to Cyprus on Friday seeking clarification of a government decision in November to revoke the Cypriot citizenship of 26 individuals who were granted it under the country’s investor scheme.
Reuters said that a Cyprus government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
In the letter, Astola asked Nicosia whether it would investigate “possible misconduct” in these cases and how it intended to prevent people with high-risk profiles from getting passports in the future. Astola’s letter asked for a response by 6th January.
Last month the government announced it was starting the process of revoking the Cypriot citizenship of 26 individuals; nine Russians, eight Cambodians, five Chinese, two Kenyans, one Iranian and one Malaysian.
Investigative journalists from the Greek language newspaper broke the news that Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, described as ‘Malaysia’s most-wanted man’ was granted Cypriot citizenship and obtained a Cypriot passport through a well-known citizenship and passport broker in 2015.
Low Taek Jho is sought by the authorities of Malaysia, Singapore, and the US; Interpol issued a Red Notice (a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action) in 2016.
On 27th November Politis revealed the names of 25 of the 26 investors whose citizenships the government was revoking.
In March last year, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International said that schemes rewarding investors with residence permit and citizenship are vulnerable to abuse, undermine the fight against corruption in Europe and increase the risk of money laundering.
In March this year, the European Parliament urged EU member states to curb money-laundering in the bloc by ending programmes by several countries, including Cyprus, to sell visas and passports, a step the multi-billion-dollar industry said would cause economic damage.
The recommendation was part of a hard-hitting report released in April, which accused seven EU countries of acting as tax havens: Cyprus, Luxembourg, Ireland, Malta, Hungary, Belgium and the Netherlands.