News Local Interior Ministry: Specialised firms to check 'golden passports'

Interior Ministry: Specialised firms to check ‘golden passports’

The Interior Ministry is considering hiring up to three specialised firms to carry out due diligence on investors applying for  Cypriot citizenship under its ‘citizenship-for -investment’ scheme, the Cyprus News Agency said on Friday.

It said that the ministry will be inviting bids to choose the firms that will carry out an estimated 1500 due diligence reviews a year. The contract will be for one year with an option to extend for another two.

Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides had informed MPs of the ministry’s plans during discussion of the ministry’s 2019 budget, it added.

A total of 2996 citizenships were granted to investors and their families in the period  2014 to 2017. Of these Cypriot passports were issued to 503 investors  and 510 family members in 2017. In 2016, the figure was 443 investors and 461 family members and in 2015, 337 and 342. In 2014, 214 investors and 186 family members were given Cypriot citizenship.

Applicants were mainly from Asia, Europe and Arab countries.

Cabinet has set an annual ceiling of 700 citizenship-by-investment.

The Cyprus News Agency said  the due diligence will include verification of the applicant’s ID and analysis of the company’s history( ultimate beneficial owner, associates etc). It will also look at the applicant’s good name, his business and social track record, source of income/wealth and compliance record.

Other aspects of the review include verification of the legality of the applicant’s actions such as checking his criminal and legal record as well as checking any possible links with organised crime, human rights violations or financing of terrorism.

The measures come in the wake of calls from the EU to member states need to keep an eye on the number of citizenships they hand out in exchange for investment. EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has warned that citizenships for sale represent a security threat, adding that the Commission was “extremely concerned” about the escalation of “golden passport.”

In October, the European Commission said it will provide guidance to EU states on how to manage national schemes to sell passports and residency permits to wealthy foreign citizens, as campaigners and lawmakers warned of money laundering risks.

Government schemes to trade citizenship or residence rights for large investment are currently applied in 13 EU countries: Austria, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Britain, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and France. Hungary has terminated its programme

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