"Golden Visa" has faded


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Under pressure from the European Commission, Russian rich people who received a convenient second citizenship for business have begun to lose their "golden passports."

As reported by the influential German media (Der Spiegel weekly and Die Zeit newspaper), Cyprus and Malta revoked "golden passports" from 45 citizens of Russia and Belarus. Nicosia revoked the citizenship of nine Russian investors and 34 members of their families. Valletta revoked the passports of two more people.

The data came from the European Commission at the request of Moritz Kerner, a 32-year-old German member of the European Parliament representing the Free Democratic Party of Germany. The FDP is part of the ruling three-party coalition in Germany.

"Russians and Belarusians on the EU sanctions list do not deserve EU citizenship," Kerner commented on the decisions of the authorities of the two island states.

Let me remind you that until recently, four member states of the European Union were selling their citizenship. They were Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta. 12 EU members were trading residence permits – Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Bulgaria, Netherlands, France and Great Britain. The total amount of foreign direct investment attracted through the "golden visa" was 25 billion euros.

Last year (after the start of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine), the European Commission declared this practice illegal and recommended that EU states consider abolishing such citizenship. Brussels stated that this program allegedly posed serious risks to the security of EU residents – in particular, those related to money laundering and corruption. Since February 24, 2022, Portugal has not granted citizenship in exchange for investments to a single Russian citizen. The EU sued Malta, although it excluded citizens of Russia and Belarus from the program. Cyprus and Bulgaria stopped issuing "golden passports", and the Cypriot authorities began revoking them from Russians.

The names of those 45 people who have recently lost their Cypriot and Maltese passports were not disclosed. However, last April, the Cypriot publication Phileleftheros reported that the authorities were planning to revoke the citizenship of the following Russian investors who had fallen under sanctions: Mikhail Gutseriyev, the main shareholder of the Safmar industrial and financial group; Alexei Kuzmichev, one of the founders of the Alfa Group investment consortium; Vadim Moshkovich, former senator from the Belgorod Oblast and ex-chairman of the Rusagro Group LLC board of directors; Alexander Ponomarenko, former chairman of the board of directors of JSC Sheremetyevo International Airport. As well as their close relatives. Whether this is true remains to be seen. In any case, the named persons have not yet given any comments.

The scheme for granting citizenship in exchange for investment has been in effect in the island states for a long time. For example, a Cypriot passport could be obtained by investing at least 2 million euros in real estate or at least 2.5 million euros in securities. In addition the applicant had to donate to the Government of the Republic of 200 thousand euros. This did not stop rich people. So, only in the period from 2013 to 2019, more than 4000 people received such a document. Mostly from Russia, China, Ukraine, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

The Cypriot authorities have hit the jackpot – about 9.7 billion euros. However, on November 1, 2020, the program was suspended. According to the Chamber of Accounts, during the program's existence, more than 7 thousand people were granted Cypriot citizenship. The reason was "long-standing deficiencies" as well as "abuse of the provisions of the Cyprus Investment Program." It was found that the budget of the country had suffered losses due to non-payment of VAT of 200 million euros and another 25 million euros from non-payment of duties. Pennies, compared to the total amount of income! 3.8 thousand people had become passport holders thanks to investments of their relatives though there is no such permission in the legislation. The Cypriot Interior Ministry was hiding this data from the Ministry of Justice, while the government and parliament were receiving incomplete information about the applicants for citizenship.

In the European media there is constant information about Russians who have Cypriot passports. We will leave it to their conscience whether this is true or not.

Most often billionaire Oleg Deripaska was called a new Cypriot. He does not deny that he had a Cypriot passport from 2017 to 2022. Another Cypriot citizen, as speculated by the same Western media, since 2012 is the billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. By the way, he is the owner of the soccer club Monaco, the eight-time champion of France.

According to rumors, in 2017, Russian pop diva Alla Pugacheva and her husband Maxim Galkin obtained Cypriot passports by purchasing expensive real estate. However, they are now based not in Cyprus, but, as you know, in Israel. This couple certainly will not fall under Western sanctions. Maybe they had to sell Cypriot real estate to settle comfortably in the "Promised Land." Well, who knows?

In any case, it should be recognized that the "golden visa" for the Russian rich, which allowed them to move easily around the world and have legal business in EU countries, is losing its value right before our eyes.