On 23 August, Al Jazeera claimed an exclusive saying that a leak of government documents reveals Cyprus sold citizenship to dozens of foreigners linked to crime and corruption. The “Cyprus Papers” is a leak of more than 1,400 passport applications approved by the government of the island nation between 2017 and 2019, and it raises serious questions about the Cyprus Investment Programme. , Al Jazeera says that, in the coming days, it will reveal the identities of dozens of people who acquired Cypriot citizenship who, according to the country’s own rules, in many cases should not have received a passport. To start with it says that, between 2017 and 2019, the countries with the highest number of people applying were Russia, China and Ukraine including –
- Mykola Zlochevsky, a Ukraine tycoon, who bought his Cypriot passport in 2017 when he was already under investigation for corruption in his home country;
- Chinese businessman Zhang Keqiang, who received a Cypriot passport, despite having spent time in prison for a fraudulent share deal; and
- Vietnamese businessman Pham Nhat Vu’s passport was approved a month after he was charged with giving millions of dollars in bribes in a telecoms deal.
In May 2019, Cyprus introduced tougher rules on who was eligible for citizenship, which banned anyone under investigation, wanted, convicted or under international sanctions from buying a passport and is reviewing all past applications and announced about 30 unnamed people face losing citizenship, but The Cyprus Papers are said to reveal many more may fall foul of the new law.