News Local EU takes legal action against 'golden passport' schemes in Cyprus, Malta

EU takes legal action against ‘golden passport’ schemes in Cyprus, Malta

The European Union’s executive said it was launching legal action against Cyprus and Malta over their investor citizenship programmes, also known as “golden passport” schemes.

The schemes allow wealthy foreigners to buy citizenship in exchange for an investment of around 1 million euros in Malta and 2 million euros in Cyprus.

The European Commission also said late on Tuesday the decision was taken because the two member states granted nationality – and thereby EU citizenship – without requiring “a genuine link with the country”, as passport holders were not obliged to reside there.

The Commission also sent a letter to Bulgaria raising concerns about its passport-for-sale scheme, it said in a statement.

“There cannot be a weak link in EU efforts to curb corruption and money laundering,” Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova said.

Malta’s Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said on Tuesday the country was replacing its current scheme with a new programme that would introduce tighter vetting of applicants, who will have to be residents of the islands for a year before their applications can be considered.

The commission has refrained from launching legal actions against EU states that sell residence permits, also known as “golden visa schemes”, without requiring investors to stay in the country for a meaningful period, despite a European Parliament resolution urging such a move.

In a 2019 report the commission acknowledged golden visa and golden passport schemes posed similar money-laundering and organised crime risks.

Portugal, Greece and Bulgaria currently offer golden visa schemes under these lax conditions, a practice of which Latvia was pioneer in Europe.

Cyprus said last week it was suspending its citizenship-for- investment programme, ditching a scheme the government had acknowledged was open to abuse after an investigation by Al Jazeera, a media outlet.

The commission said it would need concrete actions to stop the practice.

The EU cannot ban such schemes, but it can force countries to require “effective residence”, meaning physical presence for a regular and extended period in the territory of the state concerned.

Both states circumvented those rules, the commission said.

The Cypriot and Maltese governments have two months to take action. Without meaningful changes, the commission could refer them to the bloc’s Court of Justice and ultimately it can ask the court to impose penalties.

(Reuters)

Top Stories

Health Minister announces new measures

During a news conference, Health Minister Konstantinos Ioannou announced the new restrictive measures aiming to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. These measures will...

6.5-million-euro-deal for school in Paphos

APS, on behalf of the Hellenic Bank reached an agreement with a consortium of Cypriot and foreign investors for the sale of school facilities...

59 COVID-19 patients being treated at Famagusta General Hospital

59 people positive to COVID-19 are currently being treated at the Famagusta General Hospital which operates as reference establishment, including three in the Increased...

Minor girls married to adults in Cyprus

The police are investigating cases of minors’ sexual abuse in violation of Law N° 91(I) of 2014 on Preventing and Combating the Sexual Abuse...

New online program to simplify procedures for gyms

Through a new digital system, the Cyprus Sports Organization will exercise strict control on all gyms both regarding applications, inspections and all necessary procedures. At...

Taste

Squash soup

Ingredients: 1 kg pumpkin, cut into small cubes, approximately 5 cups 2 medium (400g) sweet potatoes, cut into cubes, approximately 2 ½ cups 1 chopped leek, only...

Mezedes

No visit to Cyprus is complete without enjoying the traditional meal of many small dishes known as ‘meze’. This large feast, which has been a...

Prawns with fried cheese, barley shaped pasta

Put the barley shaped pasta into a small pan with salted water, bring to a boil and when tender, drain. Peal the prawns leaving...

Salmon and shrimp sheftalies

Mix all ingredients for tabbouli in a bowl and keep to one side so flavours can combine. Prepare the sheftalies: wash and soak the casing...