THE CASE OF a recent fraudster’s attempt to buy passports from Cyprus has highlighted the ease with which global criminals can become EU citizens for cash.
Last year, the European Commission launched legal action against Mediterranean member states Cyprus and Malta over allegations that their “citizenship by investment” schemes were undermining EU passports.
Under these controversial schemes, critics allege that criminals and other shady characters – often from Russia, the Middle East, and Asia – can essentially buy their way into free movement and travel of the EU for cash.
The phenomenon was recently highlighted by the revelation that Jho Low – the world’s most wanted fraudster – had spent nearly 6 million euro attempting to buy a Cyprus passport. The alleged criminal mastermind is said to have stolen $4.5 billion from the Malaysian government in the 1MDB scam – the most lucrative fraud crime in history.
Investigators in Malaysia revealed that Low had used the services of Cyprus-based passport fixers Henley & Partners, who had told him he needed to spend millions of local property in order for the country to approve his citizenship.
The EU has made attempts to crack down on Cyprus and Malta’s passports for sale schemes, believing the two countries to be profiting at the expense of the bloc’s security and integrity.
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