The Cyprus Papers (Undercover.)
Atomised. The credibility of the Cyprus government, that is.
I wrote six weeks ago about the papers leaked to Aljazeera.com, alleging that all was not strictly above board with the Cyprus Investment Program (CIP). The government had come out swinging, defending the program, while conceding that there might be one or two passports that merited re-examination.
Yesterday, Aljazeera.com dropped an hour-long video detailing an undercover operation. The premise was simple. Two actors pretended to be representatives of an unnamed Chinese National, who was cash rich, but on the run from the Chinese authorities, who had convicted him of corruption and money laundering, and sentenced him, in absentia, to seven years in prison. Would their Principal be able to obtain a Cyprus passport?
They spoke to a fixer in London. (An ex-policeman, no less.) He put them in touch with a man and wife team running an estate agency in Cyprus. On the chain went, to a lawyer, a developer (and MP), finishing up with The President of the House of Representatives. (Second only, to the President of the Republic, in seniority.)
The video eviscerates the Cyprus Investment Programme, and shines a glaring light on the corruption that runs through every aspect of Cyprus society. To preempt any smug Anglo-Saxon sentiment, I note that the investigation starts with a British ex-Policeman before moving onto a British owned- and run- estate agency.
In a nutshell, the CIP was a scheme whereby an individual could buy a passport. It has always been possible to become a citizen of another country. Through a variety of means. Certainly, the wealthy have never struggled. The right people know to speak to the right people, and deals were done.
In the last decades though, countries have started advertising the schemes in flight magazines. In Cyprus, there are billboards on it. Why is that?
Well, turns out, that the right people still talk to the right people, but if you want to get the wrong people…well, it pays to advertise.
The highest ranking politician in the video, did reassure the actors, that should there be too many obstacles in Cyprus, all was not lost. He could open doors in Malta, Slovenia and Latvia too.
And, before I go, let me point you to another EU country that has a similar scheme.