Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said on Saturday he would purge 5,000 non-governmental organisations (NGO) in the coming weeks if they did not properly register with the government.
He told the Cyprus Mail that the period of three years already granted to NGOs to properly register, plus the number of extensions allowed to them at the end of the three-year deadline had run its course and they would not be allowed any further extensions.
Nouris said there were over 7,000 NGOs operating in Cyprus, and only 2,000 had their documentation up to date with his ministry.
He said he had discussed the issue with the house interior committee recently, informing MPs that some NGOs could potentially be involved in money laundering or terrorist financing.
In February this year, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog Moneyval said that during their last visit in 2019, Cyprus had started conducting a review of the NGO sector, which Moneyval terms NPOs or non-profit organisations.
Cyprus has been in the process of identifying the subset of organisations which by virtue of their activities or characteristics are likely to be at risk of terrorist financing (TF) abuse.
“None of the measures taken so far by Cyprus have been based on an in-depth understanding of the risk of TF faced by NPOs in Cyprus and no aspect of the oversight mechanism relates to ensuring that they are not abused for the purposes of TF,” Moneyval said.
“Cyprus should conclude the risk assessment of NPO sector to identify those NPOs that are vulnerable to TF abuse and implement a risk-based approach to monitor the NPO sector consistently with TF risks,” the report said.
It also said Cyprus should raise the awareness of NGOs regarding the risks within the sector and provide advice to them on best practices to protect themselves from such abuse. Measures should also be taken to ensure that the banking sector assess the risks posed by NGOs on a client-by-client basis.
“I don’t want Moneyval to come back and say we didn’t do anything,” said Nouris. The watchdog’s next report on Cyprus is due in 2021.
The Minister added that the only way for the existing NGOs to avoid being purged was with a parliamentary bill granting them a new extension.