Making it safer and clear
In future the names of legal and auditing companies that arrange citizenship for foreign investors will be made known to the interior committee.
However, MP Pavlos Mylonas has added a further request that the committee should make it clear if anyone involved in politics owns such companies.
The subject of granting citizenships was brought up by Greens MP Giorgos Perdikis, who said that more than 1,600 people have been naturalized since 2011 under the plan to attract investors, but that there is a lack of transparency.
“From January to date alone, there have been 36 naturalizations, from different countries”, Perdikis said, expressing concern that the plans are not approved by parliament, information is not shared with MPs, some of the documents are not filed with the House, while at the same time the public is only informed about certain statistics.
“The bill we have submitted aims to fully inform the House, but also to make public what is permitted. We believe that transparency is the best tool to credit the democratic legitimacy of an administrative practice,” he said.
Perdikis added that information about people who have been granted citizenship will be discussed at the next meeting, which the commissioner for personal data will attend as some elements regarding the investors’ names may be confidential.
“The intention of the committee is to discuss and conclude the debate, given that Cyprus has been accused of trading in naturalization. We must, therefore, take effective steps to fortify and protect this instrument of attracting investment, shielding democracy with transparent procedures,” he said.
Cyprus has in the past been accused of dodgy deals regarding citizenships. Last September an article in the Guardian newspaper slammed the Cypriot government for granting citizenship to billionaire Russian oligarchs and members of the Ukrainian elite. It referred to the scheme as ‘golden visas’.
The finance ministry and the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency have dismissed claims that Cypriot passports are for sale and said the programed is simply an investment scheme.
Officials have also pointed out that the level of investment required to acquire citizenship is far higher than other European countries offering similar schemes. In Malta, €350,000 must be spent on a residence, and it need only be held for five years. In Cyprus, at least €500,000 of an applicant’s overall investment must be spent on a permanent residence.