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Saudi owner of jet used by Cyprus President should not have been granted citizenship

The citizenship application filed by a Saudi businessman who owns the jet used by President Nicos Anastasiades on various trips without following public contract procedures should have been rejected.

Because it did not meet the criteria, an Auditor General’s report said on Friday before listing three main  reasons to back this conclusion.

Nonetheless, the Ministry of Finance promptly issued a statement dismissing the outcome and arguing that the points raised in the report are based on the fact that the Auditor General interprets them differently.

The report said that through the controversial citizenship by investment scheme, the Saudi businessman and 38 other individuals – family members and friends – received Cypriot passports.

The probe into this case was prompted after it transpired that the Presidency had used a private jet to travel to New York for the UN General Assembly last September.

It later emerged that the jet owner had been granted Cypriot citizenship in 2015 – something that prompted a political storm.

The three specific reasons the report lists to explain why the Saudi’s citizenship application should have been rejected are the following:

  1. The applicants had to own a permanent residence of at least €500,000 plus VAT in Cyprus.
  2. For one applicant, two adjacent apartments in Paphos were declared to be his private residence, but this did not fulfil the scheme’s privately owned residence conditions.
  3. Part of the applicants’ investment (acquisition of a villa and surrounding land) appears to be related to the purchase of a company which, however, was not active in Cyprus and only had immovable property.

Based on the findings of the Auditor General’s Office, the approval of the citizenship application has led to the government losing taxes and fees of around one million euros, since the companies of the naturalised Saudis have not filed any tax returns since 2014.

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