Cyprus Acknowledges “Mistakes” After Passports Issued to Jho Low, Hun Sen’s Relatives

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Cyprus’s finance minister acknowledged on Tuesday that some mistakes were made in offering citizenship for investment after disclosures about beneficiaries triggered uproar on the Mediterranean island.

A Reuters investigation published in October revealed that wealthy relatives and allies of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen have been buying foreign citizenship, with eight members of his inner circle receiving Cypriot passports.

Authorities in Cyprus launched a probe after the report.

Local media have subsequently reported on other beneficiaries of the scheme that benefited more than 3,200 investors and family members between 2013 and 2018.

Politis newspaper published an image of what it said was a Cypriot passport given to fugitive Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, who is accused of a multibillion-dollar theft from a state fund. He has denied wrongdoing and his location is unknown.

“We have to acknowledge that in the early years, mistakes were made. Isolated albeit, but not insignificant,” Cypriot Finance Minister Harris Georgiades told a business conference in Nicosia.

Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters

“Substantive corrective measures related to the programme have come into effect since the beginning of this year.”

Cyprus has had a citizenship for investment plan in place since 2013, under which a minimum €2 million euro (RM9.2 million) investment can acquire a passport and visa-free travel throughout the European Union. It has been reviewed several times and criteria are now stricter, authorities say.

The island’s cabinet was due to discuss the matter on Wednesday, Cypriot media reported.

Reuters’ disclosures triggered demands from Cypriot opposition parties for answers. The main AKEL opposition party repeatedly asked how passports could be given to individuals “who probably couldn’t find Cyprus on the map.”

Earlier reports:

Nov 6, Cyprus President Wants Jho Low’s Passport Revoked

Nov 5, Cypriot Government to Relook at Scheme That Netted Jho Low a New Passport

Nov 4, Report: Archbishop of Cyprus Helped Fast-Track Jho Low’s Citizenship

Nov 4, Jho Low Now Holds Cyprus Passport, Citizenship, Building Grand Hideaway Home