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Cyprus selling EU citizenship to super rich of Russia and Ukraine

Billionaire Russian oligarchs and Ukrainian elites accused of corruption are among hundreds of people who have acquired EU passports under controversial “golden visa” schemes, the Guardian reported. The government of Cyprus has raised more than €4bn since 2013 by providing citizenship to the super rich, granting them the right to live and work throughout Europe […]

Billionaire Russian oligarchs and Ukrainian elites accused of corruption are among hundreds of people who have acquired EU passports under controversial “golden visa” schemes, the Guardian has learnt.

The government of Cyprus has raised more than €4bn since 2013 by providing citizenship to the super rich, granting them the right to live and work throughout Europe in exchange for cash investment. More than 400 passports are understood to have been issued through this scheme last year alone.

Prior to 2013, Cypriot citizenship was granted on a discretionary basis by ministers, in a less formal version of the current arrangement.

A leaked list of the names of hundreds of those who have benefited from these schemes, seen by the Guardian, includes prominent businesspeople and individuals with considerable political influence.

The leak marks the first time a list of the super rich granted Cypriot citizenship has been revealed. A former member of Russia’s parliament, the founders of Ukraine’s largest commercial bank and a gambling billionaire are among the new names.

The list sheds light on the little-known but highly profitable industry and raises questions about the security checks carried out on applicants by Cyprus.

Beneficiaries of the pre-2013 schemes include an oligarch and art collector who bought a Palm Beach mansion from Donald Trump, and a Syrian businessman with close links to the country’s president, described in a leaked US diplomatic cable as a “poster boy for corruption” in war-torn Syria.

European politicians have been watching the sector’s growth with alarm, with some saying the schemes undermine the concept of citizenship. Ana Gomes, a Portuguese MEP, described “golden visas” as “absolutely immoral and perverse”.

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