By Moustafa Daly
“It is commonly understood that the [RBI program] is outdated,” says Savvas Poyiadjis, managing director at Fidescorp Limited. “I understand that the government is currently studying new residency routes that would be attractive and in line with international standards in terms of quality of applicants and ties with the country.”
However, Poyiadjis doesn’t’ expect the program “to be scrapped until a new scheme is announced.”
The Cyprus golden visa program shows signs of abuse
Presenting the audit’s results and recommendations to the Ministry of Interior, the committee found evidence of many irregularities, lack of oversight, and suspected abuse of the program.
In some cases, the committee found that individuals were able to obtain a property sales document which they used to get the PR before canceling the sale, in effect evading the financial requirement of the program.
Also, the committee said that authorities have failed to conduct regular compliance check-ups, and that a sizable number of applicants within the sample have only visited Cyprus a few days a year, which, despite not technically breaking the rule, could potentially negate the investors’ genuine connections with Cyprus.
More violations include applications that were filed by relatives, not the main applicant, violations of VAT laws and non-compliance with provisions related to disclosing the origin of funds.
“Given the large number and seriousness of the findings in the randomly selected sample, we have expressed the opinion that one can reasonably infer carelessness in the drafting and implementation of the Programme in general and the inadequacy of control mechanisms,” reads the audit report.
Reacting to the report, the Cypriot Interior Ministry acknowledged the report’s findings, saying the ministry had already identified these issues and is working to eliminate the risks posed by the program – however, consequential decisions and steps are yet to be clarified.
The EU Commission’s stance on Cyprus golden visa
The audit committee further stated: “Given the position of the European Commission, we suggested to the Ministry of the Interior to seriously consider the possibility of completely abolishing the Programme.”
The EU Commission’s position in reference dates to October 2020 when the commission decided to take Cyprus and Malta to court over their golden passport programs. The move prompted Cyprus to cancel its program shortly thereafter in November 2020, leaving Malta then as the only EU jurisdiction with a citizenship by investment program.
Ever since, the commission has maintained that investment residency that does not entail a genuine link between the applicant and the country of destination is in violation of EU principles.
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