The Cyprus Citizenship Program is Cancelled
On Tuesday, 13th of October 2020, Cyprus scrapped its long-running citizenship by investment program. This happened after new allegations that a veteran lawmaker and a state official didn’t follow the strict vetting process. The allegations implicated that they issued a passport to a fictitious investor with a supposed criminal record.
Kyriakos Koushous, the Cyprian government spokesman, said, “The cabinet accepted a recommendation by the Minister of the Interior and Finance to cancel the ‘Golden Passports.’”
Moreover, Koushos said the decision to cancel the program would start to take effect on the 1st of November 2020. This decision was built upon the “long-standing weakness, but also abuse” of the provisions of the Cyprus Investment Program.
What Lead to The Cancellation of the Golden Visa Program
The allegations first surfaced through an hour-long report by Al Jazeera. An investigative unit used a crew with hidden cameras to film this piece. The report shows lawmaker Christakis Giovanis and Parliamentary Speaker Demetris Sylloruis pledging their full support to grant a passport to a fictitious Chinese investor. This “investor” had money laundering convictions against him.
The report also portrayed a lawyer and various advisors. They were helping the representative of this “investor” to cheat background checks through various methods. These methods included slightly changing the name or even granting citizenship through his wife instead.
Giovanis said he knew that the approach was a fake. He claimed that he had played along to gather more information about the representative so that he can report it to the proper authorities.
The European Commission’s Comment on The Cyprus Citizenship Program
Christian Wigand, the European Commission’s spokesman, said that infringement proceedings might be launched against Cyprus.
Wigand told reporters that “We watched in disbelief how high-level officials were trading European citizenship for financial gains. President (Ursula) von der Leyen was clear when saying European values are not for sale.”
Wigand also stated that the European Commission had raised some concerns with the Cypriot authorities about this citizenship by investment program.
How Did Cypriots React to The Allegations
Many indignant Cypriots took to social media to demand the resignation of Sylloruis. In response, Syllouris made a statement on Tuesday 13th of October 2020, saying that he would step back from his duties as of next week. At least until an investigation is completed to its fruition.
Moreover, he apologized for what he called the “unfortunate picture” that the report showed. He also said that the story was “staged and fragmented,” allowing his reputation and that of the institution of House Speaker to be besmirched.
Cypriot officials had earlier voiced concerns that Al Jazeera was launching a malicious “smear campaign” against their nation.
The Cyprus CBI Program and the “Mistakes” That Were Made
The Cyprus citizenship by investment program had attracted foreign investors for years. This makes sense as the Cypriot passport gives access to the entire European Union. More than €7 billion were generated by this program, along with over 4,000 Cypriot passports granted.
The Cypriot government has admittedly stated that “mistakes” were made since the inception of this program. In fact, the eligibility criteria have been updated several times in the past few years. The most recent changes include Anti Money-Laundering vetting rules. They also make it easier to revoke the citizenship of those who are convicted of a serious crime.
Despite the new rules, the program continued to receive allegations of bribery, favoritism and skirting the rules.
The Alternatives for Immigrant Investors
The cancelation of the Cypriot immigration by investment is, of course, unfortunate news for many investors. Some investors were planning to use this program to increase their mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fortunate news is, there are other Golden Visa programs that can prove just as suitable.
These are namely the Portugal Golden Visa, The Greece Golden Visa, and The Spain Golden Visa.
Portugal Golden Visa
The Portugal Golden Visa is among the most popular Golden Visa programs in Europe. This is due to Portugal’s competitive economy and it’s ever-growing real estate sector. Additionally, Portugal offers various beneficial taxing programs for Golden visa holders.
Since its inception in 2012, the Portugal Golden Visa has issued more than 15,500 residency visas and generated over €5.5 billion in investments. These numbers are as of August 2020.
Greece Golden Visa
The Greece Golden Visa program stands out as being the Golden Visa with the lowest minimum investment threshold at just €250,000. Greece’s warm year-round weather, excellent beach-front property, and relaxed lifestyle brought in many investors, expats, and tourists over the years.
The Greece Golden Visa has granted over 4,000 to investors and over 8,000 permits to their family as of 2020. Additionally, it has raised over €3 billion.
Spain Golden Visa
The Spanish government introduced the Spain Golden Visa in 2013. The country’s high standard of living and strong economy make it an ideal place for relocation.
The Spain Golden Visa saw smashing success since its inception. As of 2020, It has welcomed over 5,500 main applicants and raised over€ 2.8 billion in the process.