Cyprus is having to suspend its controversial Citizenship for Investment Programme after reports or numerous loopholes and weaknesses, and abuse of the system.
Spokesman for the Cypriot government – Kyriakos Koushos – was speaking to journalists after an emergency session of the island’s cabinet and announced the suspension of the programme, in its current form, will be taking effect from November 1st.
According to an Al Jazeera expose a number of high-ranking Cypriot politicians, officials, lawyers and real estate developers are implicated in a scheme that allows “shady“ individuals to buy a European passport using the country’s citizenship through an investment programme.
On Monday In The Cyprus Papers Undercover, Al Jazeera exposed the country’s highest political ranks for willing to aid and abet convicted criminals to obtain Cypriot citizenship, granting the criminals visa-free travel access to the European Union’s internal markets.
Among those implicated are parliamentary speaker Demetris Syllouris and opposition member of parliament, Christakis Giovanis, who just happens to be one of the country’s largest real estate developers.
These revelations came out two months after Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit published The Cyprus Papers, a leak of 1,400 documents showing Cyprus authorities failing regularly to adhere to laws, having allowed convicted criminals and various countries justice fugitives to obtain the citizenship.
Following the investigation, Cyprus defended the programme, and while admitting there had been several mistakes in recent years, it was said that the tightening of laws and applicants’ background checks were considered sufficient enough to stop criminals from obtaining a passport.
Cyprus’s Citizenship through Investment Programme grants a Cypriot passport to anyone who invests at least $2.5m in the country, mainly through real estate investments.
Since the beginning of passport program in 2013 the country has made more than seven billion euros.
The amount is said to be used to keep the nation’s struggling economy afloat.