The top recipients of Cyprus citizenship in 2017 were Russians some 1,315 of whom received naturalisation, a Eurostat report published on Tuesday revealed.
Number two on the list of people who were naturalised in Cyprus were UK nationals, 502, and Ukrainians were third with 481 people.
In 2017, some 825,000 persons acquired citizenship of an EU member state. The countries where most people acquired citizenship were Italy (18 per cent of all acquired citizenships in the EU), the UK (15 per cent), Germany and France (14 per cent each), Sweden and Spain (8 per cent each).
The main beneficiaries of an EU citizenship were people from Morocco (8 per cent), Albania (7 per cent), India and Turkey (4 per cent each). France, Spain and Italy (together 83 per cent) were the main member states where people from Morocco acquired citizenship, while for those from Albania it was in Greece and Italy (together 97 per cent).
The UK (53 per cent) was the main member state where the population from India acquired citizenship, while 50 per cent of the persons who were naturalised in Germany were from Turkey.
In January, the European Commission warned that programmes of EU states, including Cyprus, to sell passports and visas to wealthy foreigners could help organised crime groups infiltrate the bloc and raise the risk of money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.
The warning was contained in the first report the EU executive produced over the multi-billion-dollar industry of so-called “investment migration,” which allows rich individuals to buy citizenship or residence in countries that put them on sale.
It highlighted shortfalls in the Cypriot and Maltese schemes which do not sufficiently check the origins of the wealth of individuals and do not allow their easy identification.
Although legal, these schemes are sometimes run in opaque ways and without sufficient checks on those who acquire passports and visas, the Commission said, mostly raising concerns about the programmes in Malta and Cyprus.
The investment amount is €2m if the investment is made solely in residential real estate, at least a quarter of which must be spent on a residence for life.
If not, the threshold is €2.5m, at least €500,000 of which must be spent on a permanent residence. In both cases, the requirement of a permanent residence ensures the investor remains closely engaged with Cyprus even if not actually obliged to live on the island.