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Interior ministry will study damning interim passports report ‘in depth’

The interior ministry said Wednesday it would comment on the damning findings of an inquiry into the citizenship to investment programme after an in-depth study of the hefty report that was released the previous day.

The interim findings of the probe recorded a litany of irregularities and outright unlawful practices in the granting of Cypriot citizenships down the years – but also stopping short of stating that President Nicos Anastasiades engaged in a quid pro quo with a Saudi businessman.

The heavily redacted 515-page dossier notes that from 2007 through to August 17, 2020, a total of 6,779 citizenships were granted to foreign investors and family members, as well as to managers of companies investing in Cyprus.

“The 515 pages of the interim report records comments and observations while reference is made to omissions from the beginning of the programme,” the interior ministry said in a written statement.

The ministry said it sought to correct the long-standing omissions and distortions through regulations approved by parliament in August 2020.

The government was forced to terminate the programme three months later, on November 1, after the publication of a damning undercover video by Al Jazeera.

According to the report, three administrations spanning 2007 and August 2020, had been implementing the scheme without regulations. It appeared however, that the bulk of irregularities were committed during the Anastasiades administration.

Apart from that, the state had unlawfully granted thousands of citizenships to the spouses and children of investors, ignoring the fact that it was not covered by legislation.

Of the 6,779 citizenships, 48.19 per cent related to investors/businesspeople, 33.90 per cent to spouses, and 17.91 per cent to the applicants’ adult offspring and other relatives. This meant that the majority of passports – 51.81 per cent – related to family members.

“The Cypriot Investment Programme operated without proper legal guidance, and it is obvious that errors were committed in the interpretation of the provisions of the law…” the report states in its conclusions.

Although the attorney-general’s office informed the interior ministry in writing in 2015 and again in 2016, that that these naturalisations were unlawful “nonetheless the government took no action to remedy this problem up until August 2020 with the enactment by parliament of the regulations including these provisions.”

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