NICOSIA, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Cyprus announced it was suspending its citizenship for investment programme on Tuesday, following reports of abuses of a system that gives the rich a passport and visa-free travel throughout the EU.
The suspension of the programme, in its current form, would take effect from Nov. 1, government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos told journalists after an emergency session of the island's cabinet.
For a minimum investment of 2 million euros, the Cypriot scheme provides passports that guarantee visa-free travel in the European Union, which it joined in 2004.
Criticised as opaque and fraught with the risk of money-laundering, the scheme is popular with Russians, Ukrainians and, more recently, Chinese and Cambodians.
Tuesday's suspension comes after the Al Jazeera TV station aired a documentary on the programme.
Undercover journalists posing as middlemen for an imaginary Chinese investor with a conviction surreptitiously filmed a senior Cypriot state official, a lawmaker and a lawyer allegedly offering to assist the process.
By law, a criminal record should disqualify a potential investor.
The persons filmed in the documentary claimed entrapment and said they had reported the matter to authorities months ago.
Reuters reported in October 2019 that Cambodians in the inner circle of long-time leader Hun Sen, plus family members, had acquired passports, leading authorities to review the programme.
Another report by Al Jazeera in August this year said at least 60 individuals who acquired citizenship between 2017 and 2019 were high risk, and would probably not have qualified with new tighter rules since introduced. (Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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