Europe’s Passport Black Market: EU Takes Legal Action Against Cyprus & Malta Over ‚Golden Passport‘ Schemes

Written by | Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Cyprus and Malta are breaking EU law and facilitating crime by selling ‘golden passports’ to wealthy foreigners, the European Commission has said, adding citizenship through controversial investment schemes undermine the essence of EU citizenship. The EU executive cited chapter and verse of EU treaties on “sincere cooperation” and on the “integrity of EU citizenship” on Tuesday (21 October), while announcing „infringement procedures“ that could lead to fines. Infringement procedures are the EU equivalent of legal action against a country that fails to implement EU law, and can lead to financial penalties. The announcement comes shortly after Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit released ‚The Cyprus Papers Undercover‘, which implicated high-ranking Cypriot officials who expressed a willingness to sell EU passports to criminals.
Cyprus has announced it will abolish a controversial passport scheme following Al Jazeera’s revelations that high-ranking politicians were willing to issue passports to convicted criminals. The interior and finance ministries said in a statement that, „based on the long-standing weaknesses but also on the abusive exploitation of the provisions of the programme,“ the citizenship through investment programme in its current form will be abolished from 1 November. In addition, Cypriot Attorney General George Savvidis said an investigation into possible criminal offences would be launched. “What has been published in the last few hours by the Al Jazeera news network is causing outrage, anger and concern among the people,” his statement read. The Cyprus Papers Undercover documentary aired recently showed the willingness of parliament speaker, Demetris Syllouris, and member of parliament, Christakis Giovanis, to aid and abet convicted criminals to obtain a passport through the Citizenship Investment Programme (CIP).
Hundreds of people have gathered in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, to protest against corruption in the highest political circles in the country. Alexandra Attalides, the organiser of Wednesday’s protest, told the media that the protestors pursued clear objectives: “First of all, we want resignations; second we want a criminal investigation; and third we want to show to all abroad that not all Cypriots are corrupt.” Cyprus and Malta now have two months to respond to the EU letter, after which the bloc could decide to take the case to the European Court of Justice if it considers EU law is still not being followed. Brussels has long criticised the Cypriot and Maltese “golden passport” schemes, which allow people who invest large sums of money in the country, usually in property, to obtain a passport, granting them access to work, travel and financial markets in the EU. According to the EU and anti-corruption NGOs, the programmes offer opportunities to people who want to launder money.

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