The decision to give up the “golden passport” was made because of the long-term breaches of the practice, said Cypriot government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos, referring to abuses and the exploitation of some provisions of the investment program.
Launched in 2007, the “golden passport” program has so far brought 7 billion euros to the treasury of Cyprus from about 4,000 foreigners, mostly Russians and Chinese. A foreigner could obtain the citizenship of Cyprus and therefore that of the EU in exchange for an investment of 2.5 million euros, which often consisted of the purchase of a house on the island. The city of Limassol has become one of the main attractions, now called “Limassolgrad”, an allusion to the large number of Russians.
According to the Cypriot government, the program will end on November 1, and all “golden passports” will be taken away.
The European Commission considers that this practice has led to the infiltration of individuals from organized crime into the EU.
The announcement of the abolition of the “golden passport” came just hours after Al Jazeera aired a report showing gaps in the system. The protagonist of the report is a fictitious client scolded by the law and looking for a lifeline due to the Cypriot scheme. It is helped by a whole network, from civil servants to real estate agents, lawyers and even high-ranking politicians.
Police have launched an investigation into the report’s revelations, and Parliament Speaker Demetris Syllouris has stepped down until the end of the investigation.
Last week, Cyprus revoked seven “golden passports”.