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Saturday, August 29, 2020

August 29, 2020

EU commissioner for justice calls for changes to citizenship-through-investment scheme after Al Jazeera investigation.
European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders has told Al Jazeera he is looking into the possibility of legal action against Cyprus over the country's citizenship-through-investment scheme.

Reynders also called for changes throughout Europe to citizenship-through-investment schemes and said he preferred to completely phase them out.

His comments come after Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit published The Cyprus Papers, a collection of leaked documents that showed Cyprus sold passports to criminals, fugitives and people considered to be at high risk of corruption.

Those documents, consisting of almost 1,500 passport applications containing more than 2,400 names, showed Cyprus failed to conduct due diligence on dozens of cases, allowing criminals and people under international sanctions to buy citizenship for the EU-member state.

Reynders told Al Jazeera he asked the legal department of the European Justice Commission "to analyse if it is possible in the legal framework that we have now to start an infringement proceeding or to come with a legislative proposal".

Reynders added he would like to see some action from the European Union on new legislation, but the bulk of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of Cyprus.

"After the report that you have published and some others in the past, the first element is to be sure that there are some investigations at the national level from the justice system," Reynders said.

"It is the task of the justice system in Cyprus to analyse the situation, and if it is possible for the Cypriot authorities to revoke the nationality."
Reynders also focused on the importance of collaboration between EU member states, calling for more information-sharing between supranational authorities.

"We want to have clear information about the different people asking for nationality with a clear exchange of information with Europol and other kinds of institutions at the European level."

Cypriot response

On Wednesday, the Cypriot government also responded to Al Jazeera's revelations, calling the reporting "propaganda, not journalism".

"All of the persons in question, for whom we will avoid naming for obvious reasons, at the time of submission of their applications, met the criteria and were holders of clean criminal records in their countries of origin and countries of residence," Cypriot Minister of Interior Nicos Nouris said during a news conference, according to local media.

"What is being found is a deliberate attempt by Al Jazeera to falsify data and information," Nouris added, without providing proof of his claims.

Nouris said an investigation was continuing into the source of the leaked documents Al Jazeera obtained.

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