“Don’t point out Al Jazeera to me, so the satan is not going to take you,” the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, angrily informed reporters ready for him to touch upon the investigation that rocked the Japanese Mediterranean island nation on Monday.
His response, as surprising as it could be, was considerably comprehensible.
Al Jazeera’s investigation, The Cyprus Papers Undercover, confirmed how Cypriot authorities had been keen to bypass rules and even break the regulation to assist criminals acquire European passports through the Cyprus Funding Programme (CIP). The truth that a number of high-ranking authorities officers, together with Speaker of the Home of Representatives Demetris Syllouris, had been implicated by the investigation was an enormous blow to the president and the federal government of Cyprus.
So, the president’s response was comprehensible, however was it indicative of a want to deal with this deep-rooted downside?
Al Jazeera’s investigation carried the problem to world headlines and proved the complicity of some elected officers within the misconduct, however the president was conscious of the controversy surrounding the nation’s citizenship-through-investment programme lengthy earlier than its undercover reporters started working. Over the previous couple of years, a number of reviews have been printed questioning the legality and legitimacy of such schemes, significantly in Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria. Reporters, coverage consultants and researchers repeatedly underlined the pitfalls of schemes that tie the granting of citizenship to cash, and flagged loopholes in these insurance policies that might result in criminals, politically uncovered folks and different problematic figures acquiring European passports.
Regardless of all this, Cypriot authorities, together with President Anastasiades, not solely did not take motion but additionally did all the pieces of their energy to defend the controversial scheme and accuse its critics of getting ulterior motives.
Ignoring the truth that the scheme was amended 5 instances since 2014, they defiantly claimed that it has all the mandatory protecting mechanisms in-built to forestall the granting of passports to unfit people. Furthermore, they repeatedly accused critics of the scheme of both working with Cyprus’s rivals, or attempting to defame the nation for political and financial acquire.
And when Al Jazeera launched its investigation and demonstrated that Cyprus has certainly “offered” passports to, amongst others, convicted criminals and folks wished by Interpol, they barely modified their strategy to the problem.
President Anastasiades ordering reporters “to not point out Al Jazeera” was not a “joke” as his representatives later claimed, however a part of his authorities’s efforts to downplay the investigation and keep away from being pressured to do something tangible to handle the issue.
Of their preliminary response, Cypriot authorities refuted Al Jazeera’s claims as “propaganda”, with Inside Minister Nicos Nouris arguing they solely aimed to wreck the nation’s economic system by way of “false data”. In addition they accused the Qatar-based broadcaster of looking for to smear Cyprus’s repute as a result of its alleged political ties to the island nation’s regional rival, Turkey. They remained equally defensive even when the problem was raised by the European Union.
Whereas attempting to deflect the blame, and create a story by which Cyprus is being unjustly focused by exterior forces with ulterior motives, in addition they tried to border the scheme in query solely as an “funding programme”.
This isn’t solely false, and problematic, for a number of causes, but it surely additionally demonstrates the federal government’s unwillingness to acknowledge the doubtful moral foundations of the programme.
The CIP, regardless of its identify, has by no means been an funding programme. It was created for one objective and one objective solely: promoting EU passports for vital sums to people who haven’t any reputable declare to Cypriot citizenship. Builders of the programme clearly understood this, as all their promoting had targeted not on funding alternatives within the nation, however on the declare that by way of this scheme one “can purchase a European passport in three months”.
Once more, the CIP has by no means been an funding programme, since immovable property – a passport – purchased at extremely inflated costs is just not an funding. Furthermore, a passport is by definition an asset of the State and this raises severe questions in regards to the moral and authorized standing of the CIP.
The primary query to ask is whether or not any explicit administration has any moral and even authorized grounds to implement insurance policies that cede to some non-public invididuals an asset that belongs to the nation, and in the end to all its folks. How and why are the advantages of that asset supplied to those few folks? Some might argue that every one Cypriots profit from the “investments” these people are requested to make within the nation with a purpose to purchase a passport. Positive, it appears logical to imagine that any funding would assist the nation by way of the creation of jobs and different results. However research carried out by the Cyprus Finance Ministry have proven that the contribution the programme has made to the GDP and the economic system, normally, has been very restricted.
The second is a query that Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation has delivered to mild: Can the promoting of passports, leaving the ethics and the legality of the follow itself apart, ever be effectively regulated?
A European passport has no particular worth, however it’s not that troublesome to see that such a doc might be invaluable to many. An EU passport not solely provides an individual the best to maneuver freely throughout Europe, but it surely additionally provides them entry to an enormous financial market and particular authorized protections and rights. For criminals and politically uncovered individuals, it might show much more precious – it might assist them keep away from prosecution of their house nation.
It’s past doubt that sure excessive internet price people in authorized and political bother can be keen to pay any value for an EU passport. As that is additionally identified by these tasked with “promoting” passports within the identify of the state, can any authorities ever provide you with rules strict sufficient to make sure passports are usually not offered to folks unfit to accumulate them?
Can an “funding programme” that ties the granting of citizenship to cash ever be really freed from corruption?
Citizenship by way of funding programmes, by their nature, are black market affairs. The vendor is aware of the nice they’re promoting has no mounted value, is extremely desired by many and might be produced with none actual prices. The consumers, however, know that the nice on supply can present them with invaluable advantages and protections. Consequently, the vendor and the customer can simply resort to illegitimate and even illegal means to finish this extremely worthwhile, and laborious to control, transaction.
Following Al Jazeera’s investigation, a number of Cypriot officers, together with Syllouris, resigned from their positions and the federal government finally introduced its resolution to abolish the nation’s citizenship by way of funding programme.
Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be seen as the tip of this affair. Authorities in Cyprus nonetheless have to reply questions on why they established such a scheme within the first place, and why they tried to defend the indefensible for such a very long time.
And, following the demise of the CIP, governments around the globe might want to determine whether or not they’ll proceed to try to fail to control the passport black market or do the best factor and abolish it for good.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.