The Greek Cypriot administration has issued passports to high profile controversial individuals under the "golden visa" scheme and has raised 4 billion euros since 2013, a recent report by British daily the Guardian has said.
According to the report, the document which was leaked reveals a list of the names of some controversial, super rich individuals, including "billionaire Russian oligarchs and Ukrainian elites accused of corruption" with political influence. Last year alone, more than 400 passports were reportedly issued in exchange for cash and investments, also granting holders the right to live and work throughout Europe.
"A former member of Russia's Parliament, the founders of Ukraine's largest commercial bank and a gambling billionaire are among the new names," the report said, adding that the list raises concerns over the efficiency of security checks on applicants in the "highly profitable industry," as the Greek Cypriot side is also part of the EU.
Previously, citizenship was granted by ministers on a discretionary basis. However, this rule was changed after 2013. According to the leaked information obtained by the Guardian, "Beneficiaries of the pre-2013 schemes include an oligarch and an art collector who bought a Palm Beach mansion from Donald Trump, as well as a Syrian businessman with close links to the country's president [Assad], described in a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable as a 'poster boy for corruption' in war-torn Syria."
In order to apply under the new scheme, applicants are required to make a property investment worth 2 million euros or 2.5 million euros in companies or government bonds, without further requirement of residency or language proficiency. Once citizenship is acquired, the individuals must visit the Greek Cyprus side once in at least seven years.
The status of the island of Cyprus remains unresolved in spite of a series of U.N.-mediated discussions between the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot administrations.
Cyprus was divided into a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south after a 1974 military coup was followed by violence against the island's Turkish population, and the subsequent intervention of Turkey as a guarantor power.