Cyprus scraps 'golden passport' scheme over alleged abuse

File: The government says it recognises that there are many regular visitors from mainly European countries who enjoy SA's summer sun and add to economic activity. Pixabay/Jacqueline Macou

Pixabay/Jacqueline Macou

NICOSIA - Cyprus said it will scrap its citizenship scheme for foreign investors next month over alleged abuses uncovered in a television programme.

Government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos said the cabinet had agreed in an emergency meeting to abolish the scheme as proposed by the finance and interior ministers.

"The proposal of the two ministers was based on long-standing weaknesses, abuse and exploitation of the provisions of the investment programme," Koushos told reporters.

Koushos said the scheme -- which has generated seven billion euros -- would be brought to an end on 1 November 2020.

The government would "fully examine its policy to encourage investment", he added, after the completion of an investigation into the so-called golden passports scheme.

The move came hours after Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera aired footage of officials allegedly trying to help a person acting as a client with a criminal record to acquire a Cyprus passport.

Cyprus began offering citizenship in exchange for substantial investment as far back as 2007, but the scheme was stepped up following the Mediterranean island's 2013 economic crisis.

But Cyprus has faced pressure from the European Union to reform the scheme over concerns it may have helped organised crime gangs infiltrate the bloc.

Cyprus had tightened its rules since 2007, including a ban on cash payments in 2014.

Currently, the government grants a passport in exchange for an investment of 2.5 million euros ($3-million).