As expected, one of the seven foreign investors whose Cypriot citizenship has been revoked following Wednesday’s Cabinet decision is Malaysian fugitive billionaire Jho Low, Philenews reported on Thursday.
He is at the centre of the Asian country’s multibillion-dollar Malaysia Development Berhad state fund scandal and has been in the news in Cyprus, and not only, for some time.
The seven people who got the now revoked Cypriot passports under the island’s controversial Investment for Citizens scheme are believed to have concealed essential facts and made false representations when submitting their application.
Among them are Mehdi Ebrahimi Eshratabadi (Tony Newman) and Maleksabet Ebrahimi who are father and son. Both are wanted by Interpol and the appear to have submitted false documents when applying for citizenship.
Mehdi Ebrahimi Eshratabadi is a Dominican Republic citizen of Iranian dissent and had also concealed information at the time of the application that he was wanted in Iran for fraud.
Then comes Cambodian national Sopheap Choeung, her husband and child. Investigations by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission have shown that the couple was involved in cases of violence and of seized property back in Cambodia.
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.
Nonetheless, the EU member state has faced pressure from Brussels to reform the scheme over concerns it may have helped organised crime gangs infiltrate the bloc.
Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera recently reported that dozens of those who applied for the so-called “golden passports” were under criminal investigation or international sanctions.
In defence, Cyprus argues that it has tightened up the rules since 2007, especially over the past couple of years.