Cyprus files first prosecution over passport-for-investment scheme | News in Europe

The action against five individuals and four legal entities was taken in accordance with the findings of an ad hoc committee.

Cyprus has filed its first criminal case in a controversial passport-for-investment scheme that ended last year after Al Jazeera’s corruption expose, according to the state legal service.

“The first criminal case regarding the naturalization of foreign investors and business people has been registered in the Larnaca district court,” it said in a statement on Friday.

The action against five individuals and four legal entities, facing a total of 37 charges, was taken in accordance with the findings of an ad hoc committee, said to be without names.

The legal service said “sensitive details” would not be disclosed due to the “seriousness” of the investigation.

‘Golden passport’

In November, Cyprus dropped the so -called “golden passport” scheme after Al Jazeera television aired a documentary showing reporters setting up fixers for a Chinese businessman seeking a Cypriot passport even though have a criminal record.

Parliament spokesman Demetris Syllouris and an opposition politician secretly filmed the alleged test of a passport for the fugitive investor.

They later resigned, even though both insisted they were innocent of any wrongdoing.

Al Jazeera reported that several others who applied are under criminal investigation, international sanctions or even facing prison sentences.

Nicosia has long faced pressure from Brussels to reform the plot on concerns that may have helped organized crime gangs infiltrate the European Union.

Cyprus argued that investment was a major factor in the island’s economic collapse in 2013.

Thousands of documents

Nicosia issues thousands of passports under the scheme, allowing applicants to get one in exchange for an investment of $ 3m.

About 51 percent of the 6,779 passports issued from 2007-2020 went to recipients who would not have qualified, according to non-research found in an independent inquiry.

It said the authorities had requested citizenship with a rubber mark that did not follow the proper process or proper background check.

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