A passport-for-investment programme launched by the Cypriot government to rebuild its economy in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis has seen some 3,300 passports sent to foreign investors and their family members, according to the Cyprus News Agency and local press reports.
The data was reported to have emerged in the wake of questions raised by Giorgos Perdikis, a local politician and member of the Green Party.
By contrast, the number of naturalised persons who either spent seven years in Cyprus or married a Cypriot citizen in order to be eligible for citizenship was 5,800, according to a report in the Cyprus Property News, which quoted the CNA and which was originally published in the Cyprus Mail.
Perdikis “also tabled a draft law that aims at offering more transparency in the government’s citizenship-by-investment scheme”, the Cyprus Property News added.
Under the Cyprus scheme, which is particularly popular with Russian high-net-worth individuals, non-EU citizens are able to purchase Cypriot passports and residency permits by investing at least €2m in Cyprus property, or €2.5m in government bonds or companies.
Island sources have said that Russians have accounted for roughly half of those who have signed up thus far.
Vote seen imminent
In its report, the Cyprus Property News quoted Perdikis as saying that he was “intending” Cyprus’s lawmakers to vote on his proposal to increase the transparency surrounding the passport-for-investment scheme “directly”, after attending a parliamentary committee meeting which had considered the matter.
“We definitely need investors, but citizenships should be granted with much caution, and without excess,” Perdikis added, according to the report.
As reported, island sources last June reported that Cyprus’s passport-for-investment programme had seen more than €4bn (US$4.5bn) pour into the country. A Bloomberg report at the time, which referred to Cyprus as “this Moscow-on-the-Mediterranean”, described how shop signs written in Cyrillic had become “abundant” in certain districts of the island, and how “yachts emblazoned with Russian monikers fill berths in a newly-built marina” in Limassol, the second-largest city on the island after Nicosia.
In 2016, a Cypriot minister on government business in Thailand was quoted in Thai press reports to have reminded wealthy Thai nationals that an EU passport could be theirs for nothing more than an investment in Cypriot businesses.
The Nation, a Bangkok newspaper and news website, quoted Cypriot high commissioner to India Demetrios Theophylactou as pointed out Cyprus’s competitive advantages with other jurisdictions that offer citizenship-by-investment deals as including a lower capital-gains tax and a lower minimum capital requirement, and a diversified and prospering economy.