The government has decided to expedite the processing of pending passport applications filed via the controversial citizenship-by-investment programme, apparently keen to bring some much-needed foreign cash into the economy as it grapples with the slump related to the coronavirus situation.
Tucked inside the raft of fiscal and other measures to keep businesses afloat and pump some liquidity into the market was also a decision to speed up the examination of pending citizenship applications.
The investment requirement for the so-called ‘golden passports’ programme 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.
From 2013 to date, an estimated €6.6bn in investments has been generated from the programme.
Following revelations over the granting of citizenships to a number of ‘high-risk’ foreign nationals – including Malaysian financier Jho Low, now wanted by his country – the government introduced stricter criteria and capped the number of naturalisations to 700 per year.
Late last year, the government announced it had flagged 26 ‘high-risk’ citizenships and was initiating the process of revoking them.
It’s not clear how many such citizenships have been revoked. The government at the time said that it was not easy due to legal reasons.
Meantime, according to daily Politis, a three-member advisory panel last week sent to President Nicos Anastasiades various suggestions on how to make the passport programme more credible.
The committee suggests that the Population Data Archives Law be tightened to enable authorities to revoke passports. The law already contains a provision that citizenships given to foreign nationals can be ‘monitored’ for a period of up to 10 years. Passports can be rescinded if it’s subsequently found that the beneficiary either made false declarations in the process of obtaining citizenship, or broke the laws of the Republic.
The 10-year statute of limitations would theoretically envelop most, if not all, such passports granted since 2012-2013.
The panel is recommending that more stipulations be added to the law making it easier for the state to strip someone of their citizenship.
Among others, it also suggests that passport service providers or brokers must from now on be regulated by a particular body as law firms are regulated by the Bar Association, and accounting firms by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Developers, on the other hand, are not regulated by any such body – which would disqualify them from acting as passport brokers were the committee’s suggestion to be adopted.