The Cyprus government says it will revoke the “Golden Passports” that once were purchased by 26 wealthy foreign investors and family members from outside the EU.
The measures follow an outcry over media reports that Malaysian businessman Jho Low had been granted a Cypriot passport after buying a luxury villa in the resort of Ayia Napa.
He is accused of being the key player in a multi-billion-dollar theft from a Malaysian state investment fund.
Cyprus’ Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said “mistakes” had been made in processing some citizenship requests. “It was a mistake not to have criteria, for instance, for high-risk persons,” he said.
Reports say those who have ad their Golden Passports revoked include nine Russians, eight Cambodians and five Chinese. The European Union says that many such passport schemes may mask fraud.
The other non-EU individuals among the 26 are reported to be from Malaysia, Kenya and Iran.
Cyprus offers a European Union passport for an investment of at least 2 million euros in the country.
In January of 2019, the EU told its member states to tighten checks on non-EU nationals seeking passports via investments.
There is concern that the so-called “Golden Passports” may be easily used as a backdoor into the European Union for criminal gangs or government officials to launder huge sums of money, or to evade taxes.