Cyprus Withdraws 2 More Golden Passports Issued to Russian Oligarchs

Cyprus Council of Ministers has decided to withdraw two more golden passports issued to Russian oligarchs.

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The two Russians had acquired Cypriot citizenship during the 2008-2013 presidency of Demetris Christofias, Schengen.News reports.

Cyprus’ Golden Passport Program, terminated in 2020 following its involvement in irregular affairs, permitted foreigners from other countries to acquire citizenship in exchange for financial investment.

Two Russians Whose Cypriot Passports Were Withdrawn Were Subject to Sanctions List

The first case is related to a Russian-Ukrainian billionaire and art collector named Konstantin Grigorishin, born in 1965, who received Ukrainian citizenship in 2016.

He was sanctioned by Russia in November 2018, when the latter imposed sanctions against 322 Ukrainian citizens, taking into account Grigorishin.

He acquired citizenship in Cyprus through the Golden Passport scheme in January 2011. In November 2020, he was sentenced to prison for tax evasion of $18 million and ordered to pay a total of $32 million in restitution.

The second case is related to Russian oligarch Igor Kesav, born in 1966 in North Ossetia, sanctioned by Brussels following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He was naturalised in Cyprus on May 25, 2012, and is part of the US’s sanctions list as the head of the arms company Degtyaryov, which supplies the separatists of eastern Ukraine, according to a report from Cyprus Mail.

He is part of the Forbes list of billionaires with a fortune of $3.1 billion.

Following reports of its involvement in irregular affairs, authorities in Cyprus, in May this year, revoked passports from three investors who acquired citizenship through the Golden Passport Program, thus benefiting from this scheme.

According to the government’s spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis, the decision was taken after the necessary investigation in this regard was undertaken.

Last year, the country’s government approved a bill to protect the collective interest of consumers.

“The bill modernises the existing institutional framework for protecting consumers’ collective interests,” which allows courts to order a stop to behaviours that go against the legislation on consumer protection.

The Golden Passport Program brought significant contributions to the country’s economy. However, following a report from Al Jazeera, the program was closed in 2020.

Based on a report from Cyprus Probe, provided last year, a total of 6,779 people benefited from this scheme for a period from 2007 until 2020.

Last year, the Audit Office found that the country’s Golden Passport program remained rotten until the end. According to the Audit Office, the scheme caused the loss of millions in public revenue.