Most of the Cypriot passports issued in the investment scheme were ‘invalid’ News of corruption

Between 2013 and 2019, investigations found that thousands of passports issued to wealthy foreigners were illegally transferred.

More than half of the Cyprus passports issued to wealthy foreigners in investment projects were invalid, the government-appointed board of inquiry found.

Cypriot passports were issued to about 3,000 foreign investors who stamped up a minimum of two million euros between 2013 and 2016. Project Proved popular with Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese and Cambodians.

The program ended after a corruption scandal last year, embarrassing the island’s center-right administration that championed the project before admitting the error.

“Our interim report provides statistical information on illegal naturalization – which in the eyes of the committee was issued in violation of the law – and that is 51.61 percent of the total,” Maron Nicolatos, who chaired the investigation, told reporters Friday.

He said a few more were within the proper legal framework but did not meet some of the legal criteria that came into force at the time.

In the “decade” case, the commission recommended the return of citizenship, Nikolatos added without further ado.

His report has been sent to the Attorney General’s Office and has not been made public.

“The interim report mentions possible criminal, disciplinary or administrative responsibilities that will be investigated by the relevant authorities,” Nicolatos was president of the Supreme Court until retiring in 2020.

The scheme, fueled by critics of the risk of money-laundering, was strictly defended by the government, mostly through foreign media reports and confusion in the European Union.

The Al Jazeera network was secretly forced to throw it out after the Philippines offered to help a former speaker of parliament and someone with a criminal record against others get a passport.

He resigned, but denied any wrongdoing, saying his comments were taken out of context.

The European Commission launched a violation process against Cyprus over the project last year, arguing that granting EU citizenship for a pre-determined payment without any real link to the state concerned, undermines EU citizenship.

Investigators considered 2,478 passports issued from 2007 to 2016 and an additional 417 by 2020, as high-risk.

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