Citizenship-for-Sale Scandal Heats Up as EU Threatens Lawsuits

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Malta and Cyprus were issued with legal ultimatums as theEuropean Commission stepped up its crackdown on governments selling citizenship rights to live and work in theEuropean Union.

The two nations may have violated EU law by offering so-called golden passports, or access to their country’s nationality and EU citizenship, in return for a fee, the bloc’s executive authority said on Tuesday.

Their duo’s investor-citizenship programs may undermine “the integrity of the status of EU citizenship,” the commission said in a statement.Cyprus announced earlier this month itwould end its current passport for investment program on Nov. 1.

“When a Member State awards nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes an EU citizen and enjoys all rights linked to this status” and “as a consequence, the effects of investor citizenship schemes are neither limited to the member states operating them,” the Commission said.

The speaker of the Cypriot House of Parliament Demetris Syllouris resigned last week, after an Al Jazeera report caught him on video offering to help a Chinese businessman with criminal record to get citizenship.

Jho Low, a Malaysian linked to the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal was also among the beneficiaries of the scheme offering citizenship to foreign investors.

The commission will send warnings to Cyprus and Malta, giving the governments two months to provide satisfactory answers. The ultimate step would be a lawsuit at the EU courts.

The EU said that Bulgaria will also receive similar program warning, adding that it had concerns there too and would decide on its next steps after getting the government’s response.

@dreynders

For the @EU_Commission, the granting of EU citizenship for pre-determined payments or investments without any genuine link with the Member States concerned undermines the essence of EU citizenship. As President @vonderleyen made it clear: European values are not for sale. 12:30 PM · Oct 20, 2020

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“Golden passports or golden visas are a gateway for organized crime,” said German Conservative lawmaker, Markus Ferber, a member of the largest political group at the European Parliament. “Experience shows that such schemes do not attract investors, but mainly money launderers, tax dodgers and other criminals.”

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