InsiderEconomy'60 Minutes' feature shows how golden passports scheme benefited sanctioned oligarchs (VIDEO)

’60 Minutes’ feature shows how golden passports scheme benefited sanctioned oligarchs (VIDEO)

CBS’ news magazine show “60 Minutes” on Sunday ran a programme on the now-defunct Cyprus “golden passports” scheme.

The show focuses on Cyprus’ links with Russian oligarchs and features interviews with Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides and Green Party MP Alexandra Attalides.

The latter argues that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cyprus became a destination for Russian oligarchs to hide their financial assets, due to the island’s low tax rate.

Furthermore, the country built a financial system in which you could open a bank account without having a lot of questions asked, adds Maira Martini an analyst for Transparency International.

By 2012, Cyprus had amassed bank deposits of nearly 72 billion euros. About 30% of those bank deposits came from Russian nationals.

After the 2013 financial crisis, the government started the “Cyprus Citizenship by Investment” scheme through which foreign nationals could acquire a Cypriot passport by investing more than 2 million euros in the country, mostly in real estate.

From 2013 to 2020, Cyprus issued almost 7,000 of those “golden passports” – nearly half to Russians.

“Suddenly, the skyline of Limassol was injected with high-rise luxury apartments, its port with mega yachts and its stores with uber-wealthy Russians,” CBS notes.

“You could see them walking around like princesses, moving in the most expensive shops. They have their business, they have their houses, they have luxury houses,” Attalides adds.

The scheme was abolished in 2020 after an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera revealed rampant corruption and that the government approved issuing passports to international criminals and fugitives, drawing criticism from the European Union and sparking protests in the country.

Cyprus’ links with Russian oligarchs are under the international spotlight again as, reportedly, beneficiaries of the scheme have been sanctioned by the West due to their relationship with Russia’s ruling regime.

Minister of Finance Constantinos Petrides told CBS that about ten holders of Cypriot passports were sanctioned by the West and that the Council of Ministers has initiated a process to revoke their citizenship. Some also have had their assets frozen, including 105 euros in deposits, the Minister added.

When asked by CBS to disclose their names, Petrides refused, citing European data protection rules, the channel says, although other EU countries have publicised detailed lists of their actions.

The channel also asks questions regarding what the government is doing about properties in Cyprus and shell companies that trace back to sanctioned Russians.

“I’m not saying that everybody should trust the Cyprus government. The Cyprus government does not need somebody to trust it. We have the reports of the mutual assessment for Cyprus 2019 that shows all the progress made in the past years. I think that we have proved as Cyprus that we are a reliable member of the, of the EU. We do admit that in the past there have been mistakes. But Cyprus has also been unfairly stigmatised,” Petrides is quoted as saying.

Read and watch the full segment here.

Read more:

Hack of Cypriot company reveals Abramovich has much larger fleet than previously known

Top Stories