Lawmakers said on Monday the cabinet is no longer allowed to grant Cypriot citizenship to foreign nationals under the citizenship-via-investment scheme, and even threatened legal action against the government should it issue new passports.
Chair of the House interior committee Eleni Mavrou (Akel) asserted that under a law passed a year ago, parliament has a say in green-lighting the granting of citizenships under the controversial scheme.
The government had until January 31, 2020 to submit to parliament regulations governing the citizenship programme and which would bring the parliament into the decision-making process.
So far, the cabinet had full and sole authority and discretion in approving these citizenship applications. That will no longer be the case under the legislation enacted in February 2019.
Without the regulations in place, the cabinet currently lacks the legal authority to approve citizenship applications filed after January 31 of this year, Mavrou said.
“The government has disregarded the House by not yet submitting the regulations, which it ought to have done by January 31,” she told reporters.
Going a step further, Greens MP George Perdikis warned that the government could be taken to court should it be found to break the law by issuing new passports after that cutoff date.
An interior ministry official told MPs that the ministry has prepared a draft of the regulations.
The ordinances have been sent to an ad hoc committee set up by the cabinet to vet the citizenship programme. However, they are still waiting for the committee’s feedback, the same official said.
Meantime there was no word on the fate of the 26 citizenships which the government said it would be revoking back in November, in the wake of reports that recipients included wanted individuals and high-risk persons.
Although the government had announced the revocations, they have yet to happen. The delay appears to be due to a loophole in the Law on the Population Data Archives, which lacks a clause specifying the circumstances under which nationality may be revoked.
Perdikis has tabled a legislative proposal amending that law, making it possible to deprive an individual of his or her citizenship status – in cases of honorary citizenship – for reasons of public interest. The bill affords another reason for stripping someone of citizenship – where a person has “in words or in deeds compromised the Republic internationally”.
But it’s understood that the amendment, if passed, would not have retroactive force.
One of the persons whose passport was revoked is believed to be businessman Jho Taek Low, wanted by Malaysia in connection with financial crimes.
To date approximately 4,000 naturalisations have been granted under the citizenship-via-investment scheme.
Legislators also asked the government to furnish it with an updated list of registered service providers – law firms, accounting firms and real estate developers authorised to assist foreign nationals in applying for Cypriot citizenship under the investment scheme.
The list of providers is available here: http://cipregistry.mof.gov.cy/en/