The action against five persons and four legal persons was brought on the basis of the conclusions of an ad hoc committee.
Cyprus launched its first criminal proceedings under controversial investment passport scheme abolished last year after Al Jazeera bribery expose, according to the state legal department.
“The first criminal case concerning the naturalization of foreign investors and business people has been registered in the district court of Larnaca,” he said in a statement on Friday.
The action against five individuals and four legal entities, facing a total of 37 charges, was brought on the basis of the findings of an ad hoc committee, he said, without giving names.
The legal department said “sensitive details” would not be disclosed due to the “seriousness” of the investigation.
“ Golden passport ”
Last November, Cyprus scrapped its so-called “golden passport” program after Al Jazeera television aired a documentary showing journalists posing as a Chinese businessman seeking a Cypriot passport despite a criminal record.
The Speaker of Parliament, Demetris Syllouris, and an opposition politician were secretly filmed trying to facilitate the obtaining of a passport for the fugitive investor.
They later resigned, although both insisted they were innocent of any wrongdoing.
Al Jazeera reported that dozens of other people who applied were facing criminal investigation, international sanctions or even serving prison terms.
Nicosia had long faced pressure from Brussels to reform the program, fearing it had helped organized crime gangs infiltrate the European Union.
Cyprus had argued that investment was essential following the island’s economic crisis in 2013.
Thousands of documents
Nicosia has issued thousands of passports under this program, allowing applicants to acquire one in exchange for an investment of $ 3 million.
About 51% of the 6,779 passports issued between 2007 and 2020 went to recipients who should not have qualified, according to the provisional findings of an independent investigation.
He said authorities had citizenship applications stamped without following due process or proper background checks.