The “golden passports” issued by Cyprus are on the rise. These identity papers, awarded in exchange for an investment of at least 2.5 million euros, particularly appeal to the elites who see in these documents a precious key to travel freely within the European Union to the time when the new coronavirus pandemic imposes drastic restrictions on travel.
Proof of the sudden attraction for Cypriot nationality: the American Eric Schmidt, former boss of Google from 2001 to 2011, would be on the verge of obtaining this Grail for him and his family, as BFM TV indicated on Thursday. Little icing on the cake: the architect of the tax optimization system of the American firm could, in addition to traveling freely on the Old Continent, benefit from the very advantageous tax regime of Cyprus.
The wrath of the European Union
But the days of the “golden passport” may be numbered. In October 2020, the European Union launched infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta so that these countries put an end to these controversial practices. As part of this process, which can go as far as referral to European justice and sanctions, the European executive sent letters of formal notice to the two countries, believing that they had “sold” the citizenship of the EU.
‘The granting of citizenship of the Union in exchange for a predetermined payment or investment and without individuals […] demonstrate a real link with the Member States concerned compromises the very nature of EU citizenship, ”the Commission stressed. Brussels had already expressed concern in January 2019 about this practice, which benefits in particular wealthy Chinese or Russians, considering that it presents risks for the EU, which “relate in particular to security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption ”.