İrem UZUN -TDO- Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit published a report based on official documents on Sunday, saying that convicted fraudsters, money launderers and political figures accused of corruption are among dozens of people from more than 70 countries who have bought so-called "golden passports" from Cyprus. It is said that in coming days, Al Jazeera will reveal the identities of dozens of people who acquired Cypriot citizenship who, according to the country's own rules, in many cases should not have received a passport.
Investigative Unit said it uncovered the sales of people not properly vetted to see if they are hiding criminal cash in Cypriot banks or laundering money for mobsters and politicians. The report cited a large cache of official documents- calling them The Cyprus Papers, a review of more than 1,400 passport applications approved by the government from 2017-2019. Passports for the Greek part of the divided island can be important for individuals from countries that have restricted access to Europe, as Cyprus is a member of the European Union (EU) and a passport offers its holder access to free travel, work and banking in all 27 member states.
Cyprus’ much-criticized Golden Visa offers citizenship in exchange for an investment of 2 million euros, including the purchase of a residence worth at least 500.000 euros, in addition to another 1.500.000 euros. Applicants provide their own proof of eligibility, and although Cyprus claimed to check applicants’ backgrounds, the documents obtained by Al Jazeera prove that this did not happen appropriately. Since 2013, the programme has received repeated criticism from the EU, which has called for it to be closed down.
Cyprus on Sunday denied allegations, insisting that all those who received a passport met all criteria in place at the time. Cyprus’ interior ministry said 12 foreigners named in the report received citizenship under the investment program only after being approved by Cypriot and foreign agencies tasked with vetting such applications.