Well-known Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska has received a Cypriot passport as part of the government’s scheme to allow investors to obtain citizenship, The Guardian reported on Saturday.
Deripaska is an aluminium magnate and reportedly has connections to US President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Deripaska’s application for Cypriot citizenship under the investment scheme was approved last year.
Citizenship was also offered to another Russian national and shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus, Viktor Vekselberg, who is reported to have turned down the offer, with his spokesman saying he only has Russian citizenship.
Deripaska and Vekselberg appeared on another list issued by the US Treasury in January of oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin. Deripaska has denied claims that he served as a back channel between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, as an investigation by the special counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion continues.
The Cypriot documents seen by the Guardian show Deripaska’s first attempt to become a Cypriot citizen was unsuccessful.
On this occasion, Deripaska was asked to resubmit his case because of a preliminary inquiry into his affairs in Belgium. The inquiry was subsequently dropped in 2016.
Cyprus has given citizenship to 1,685 foreign investors since 2008 – many from the former Soviet Union, and from China, Iran and Saudi Arabia – and 1,651 members of their families.
The finance ministry has previously said it carries out stringent checks on all citizenship by investment applications, with funds required to undergo money laundering controls by a Cypriot bank. Cyprus is not the only EU country to have granted citizenship to high net-wealth Russians.
The investment scheme for citizenship was launched in September 2016.
The European commission launched an inquiry last year into citizenship-by-investment programmes in the EU. The outcome is expected to be revealed later this year.
Cyprus, along with Malta, is one of the countries under scrutiny. “Cyprus is the biggest European investor in Russia and a great number of Russian nationals acquired Cypriot passports. The point is that Cyprus, like other countries, is not just selling its passport. It is marketing European citizenship,” Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes has said.