The Cyprus government continued for at least four years to unlawfully issue passports to relatives of wealthy investors under an investment-for-citizenship programme, despite warnings by the Attorney-General that this could be in breach of the law, the head of an independent commission said on Monday.
Former Supreme Court President Myron Nicolatos said that, of the 6,779 passports issued during the programme's 13-year run, 53% were issued not to the investors themselves but to family members or top company executives.
The Attorney-General's Office had warned on separate occasions in 2015 and 2016 that the practice might be unlawful because there was no specific law enabling the government to issue such passports.
Of the remainder that were granted to investors, one-third failed to meet all the criteria, Nicolatos said. He was speaking after handing the final, 780-page report of an investigation into the multibillion-euro programme to Attorney General George Savvides.
He said 8% didn’t meet the primary condition of investing around €2.5 million into the Cypriot economy, while another 12% failed to meet the bar on owning a permanent residence in Cyprus.