Cyprus has admitted that mistakes were made when offering foreign investors citizenship.
Concerns are rife that people from outside the European Union are obtaining these so-called golden passports to launder money and contravene tax laws.
A Reuters investigation revealed that wealthy relatives and allies of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen have been buying foreign citizenship, with eight members of his inner circle receiving Cypriot passports.
Local media have reported on other beneficiaries of the scheme that benefited more than 3,200 investors and family members between 2013 and 2018.
Cypriot newspaper Politis published an image of what it said was a Cypriot passport given to Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, who is accused of a multibillion-dollar theft from a state fund.
Malaysia revoked his passport and issued an arrest warrant against him. His location is unknown.
‘mistakes were made’
“We have to acknowledge that in the early years mistakes were made. Isolated albeit, but not insignificant,” Cypriot Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said.
Associated Press reports the Cypriot “golden passport” scheme has generated approximately €7 billion since its inception following a 2013 financial crisis that brought the Mediterranean island to the brink of bankruptcy.
The scheme requires that investors must put at least €2 million into real estate or a Cyprus-based business.
Cypriot passports have drawn wide interest, especially from wealthy individuals, because holders also become citizens of the EU.