Cypriot CIP vs. Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment Program
The short answer to the question why the Cypriot CIP was stopped and the Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP) was updated and continues to work is: greed. If we have to paraphrase the maxim: money corrupts, and a lot of money corrupts to the max. Cyprus was literally selling gold passports on a conveyor belt. In the end, incredible corruption stifled their citizenship program by investment. The income program allowed wealthy non-Europeans to obtain a passport for a minimum of €2.15 million by investing €2 million in real estate. And donating €75,000 to the government’s R&D fund and €75,000 to the Land Development Organization.
“No other European gold visa program guarantees such reliable results, offering a second EU passport in just two to three months,” the programme’s official website said. Reference: the procedure of the Bulgarian program then and now lasts 18 months.
The Cypriot program has “burned out” due to numerous cases of corruption. But the drop that spilled over the glass turned out to be the Al Jazeera investigation. The film, using a hidden camera, revealed that Cypriot program officials were selling passports to a Chinese businessman with a proven criminal record. Senior government officials were involved. Footage of Al Jazeera journalists showed Parliament Speaker Demetris Siluris and MP Kristakis Giovannis involved in a corruption scheme. The Cypriot CIP has been suspended.
The Bulgarian program
Due to the scandal that erupted over the Cypriot citizenship by investment program, the stigma was thrown at all other similar programs in the EU. For this reason, the pressure from the European institutions on the Bulgarian CIP was incredible. As a result of this pressure, every aspect, every case and problem was examined “under a microscope”, in search of the best possible solutions. The Bulgarian government has initiated a national debate on the topic. As a result, the Bulgarian parliament adopted important changes to the country’s Citizenship Act related to the CIP. The changes were adopted almost unanimously.
At the moment it can be safely said that the Bulgarian citizenship by investment program is the best in Europe. Opportunities for corrupt practices are minimized. And they are not connected to the program itself. But to various “dealers” of citizenship who, like “vultures”, circle around the program, trying to exploit it for their own benefit. Therefore, be careful when applying for a Bulgarian “golden passport”. Choose a law firm that has already proven to be correct in its work. Without such a law firm, you will not be able to handle all the bureaucratic, legal and administrative procedures. Choose wisely and do not turn to random single subjects.
The consequences for Cyprus and its CIP
The consequences for the island of Aphrodite of the suspension of their CIP were devastating. The real-estate market and investment on the island have been severely affected. Many foreign investors have found themselves in an extremely difficult situation with properties already purchased, but without the promised European citizenship. The Cypriot authorities have long been aware of the misuse of the program. In November 2019, the authorities confiscated the “golden passports” of 26 people, including 9 Russians. However, the corruption scheme continues to operate. To get to the scandal with the investigation of Al Jazeera TV, which drove the last nail in the coffin of the program. In Al Jazeera’s exposing film, the main protagonist is the Speaker of the Cypriot Parliament, Dimitris Siluris. Footage taken with a hidden camera shows Siluris promising support to a Chinese investor with a criminal past “at all levels.” There are similar disgraceful shots for MP Hristakis Dziovanis, who is one of the largest construction contractors in the country. The scheme is clear: the investor puts his money in a property built by Mr Giovannis. While Mr Siluris provides him with a state umbrella for the procedure of obtaining Cypriot (European) citizenship – to be carried out quickly and smoothly in just a few months. This corrupt practice was put to an end.
CIPs in the moment
Currently, the only real opportunity to obtain an EU gold passport is the Bulgarian citizenship by investment program.
The main goal of the Bulgarian Program is to attract third-country nationals and investments in companies registered in Bulgaria. In return, investors are given the opportunity to obtain a long-term residence permit. Or the so-called “golden passport”.