articles | 22 October 2019

Record number of passports could be issued to foreign investors

In 2019 Cyprus could break the record for the number of passports issued to foreign investors, despite the introduction of stricter criteria in May of the same year for its maligned Citizenship for Investment Scheme.

According to data collected by Stockwatch up until May, some 550 passports were issued to foreign investors who had made investments of €2.5 million, closing in on the 581 passports issued in 2018.

Stricter criteria were introduced in May, after an international outcry and criticism from the European over Cyprus ‘lenient’ citizenship program, which has allegedly handed out passports to persons with dubious backgrounds.

Recently Reuters reported that members of the Cambodian political elite are holders of a Cypriot passport, with Nicosia avoiding commenting directly on the matter but saying greater transparency has been applied.

Citizenship for Investment was launched in 2012 when the cash-strapped government sought to draw in foreign investments to boost a crumbling economy, after a series of austerity measures were introduced and a haircut imposed on unsecured depositors in 2013.

In 2012, 48 foreign investors had obtained the Cypriot passport, and 55 in 2013.

Numbers took off in 2014 when a more ‘lenient’ scheme was introduced with 214 passports issued that year and 337 in 2015.

In 2016 the number of passports granted was 443 and in 2017 the number was 503, with 2018 breaking the record with 581 passports issued.

The investment program is responsible for the flow of hundreds of millions into the economy each year, mainly in the construction sector. Investors' focus is mainly on luxury apartments in high-rise buildings and luxury villas by the sea.

As of 15 May, stricter criteria include an investment of €2.5 million and a €75,000 contribution to the state Land Corporation and another €75,000 to the Innovation Fund, and tighter due diligence procedures which are expected to exclude many investors.

Market sources told Stockwatch that following the application of stricter criteria the number of passports issued is expected to fall in the coming years.

The same sources estimate that the spate of activity in the real estate sector that was boosted by the CIS scheme, granting passports to investors mainly from Russia and China, is coming to an end.

Source: Financial Mirror

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