The billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who became one of the 10 wealthiest people in Russia in the early 2010s and came under personal US sanctions last year, has been stripped of his Cypriot citizenship.
After auditing its “citizenship for investment” program, in which one can “buy” a passport by investing €2 million in the island’s economy, the government of Cyprus has revised its decision regarding 26 individuals.
As reported by Vedomosti, citing the Cypriot mass media, in addition to Deripaska, who became a citizen of Cyprus in 2017, other rejectees include Vladimir Stolyarenko and Alexander Bondarenko, former senior managers of the Russian-Venezuelan Evrofinans Mosnarbank, as well as their family members.
All applications for citizenship received before 2018 are subject to revision, warned Cypriot Interior Minister Konstantinos Petridis in October.
The decision was made by the island’s Council of Ministers on October 23, and applies to all new Cypriots who were naturalized before control was tightened.
An expanded audit will be conducted by three American companies which won the open tender: Sterling Diligence, Kroll, and S-RM Intelligence and Risk Consulting. The aim is to identify whether among the recipients of citizenship there are any persons who are facing charges or are subject to EU sanctions, Petridis explained.
If such violations are found, the passports will be recalled, he warned. “The process of revocation of citizenship will be initiated in all cases when the audit reveals that a person or a member of his family has been accused of any crimes, or are the objects of European or international sanctions,” the interior minister pointed out.
Even offenses committed after the passports were obtained can constitute a reason for revocation of citizenship, he clarified.
Alongside Deripaska, another person who could be on his way out is the billionaire Viktor Vekselberg (11th on Forbes’ list of wealthiest Russians with $11.5 billion), a citizen of Cyprus since 2017 who came under US sanctions last year.
With a total wealth of $15 billion, Vekselberg and Deripaska are only the tip of the iceberg of Russian money in Cyprus, which is eight times larger than the island’s GDP ($186 billion according to the Bank of Russia). The purging of the passport program in Cyprus was initiated by the EU government. “Criminals are endangering Europe’s security or want to engage in money-laundering here,” said EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova in August last year.
“The practice of issuing golden visas and golden passports in exchange for investments and buying property should be stopped, because the EU does not want to become a refuge for corruption and dirty money,” she demanded.
According to Der Spiegel, other countries that have come under the EU’s scrutiny are Greece and Malta, which actively trade in passports, their primary clients being Russians and citizens of former Soviet republics.