In his book MoneyLand: Why Thieves And Crooks Now Rule The World And How To Take It Back, financial journalist Oliver Bullough talks about Moneyland as, “a legal construct that is divorced from any place on the map.” He says that money in Moneyland, “isn’t just drug money, or stolen money, or bribes” but includes “money, which has dodged taxes, regulations, and been stashed offshore to avoid detection.” He adds, there is also money shipped out of countries like Russia, China or Venezuela just to avoid it being seized by governments. The International Monetary Fund estimates such illicit financial flows could amount to as much as $2.6 trillion annually. This tidal wave of insidious ‘flight capital’ is sloshing around worldwide looking for safe havens.
One such safe haven has been Cyprus that provides a “citizenship for investment” program to wealthy individuals who are non-E.U. citizens where they can “buy” a passport by investing €2 million in the island’s economy. The fast track procedure to obtain a so-called “golden passport” takes three months and has no residency requirement. What is more, the applicant and his family gain free entry to the European Union, access to the best education and health care institutions and are subject to low taxation. Most importantly, they secure an escape hatch for themselves to avoid political instability back in their home country should it arise.
Recently, however, the Cypriot government has initiated a process of revocation of citizenship in cases where an “audit reveals that a person or a member of his family has been accused of any crimes, or are the objects of European or international sanctions.” Following this process, according to a report in The Telegraph, Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire who became one of the 10 wealthiest people in Russia a few years ago and came under personal U.S. sanctions last year, has been stripped of his Cypriot citizenship. According to a report in Vedomosti citing Cypriot sources, in addition to Deripaska, other rejectees include Vladimir Stolyarenko and Alexander Bondarenko, former senior managers of the Russian-Venezuelan Evrofinans Mosnarbank, as well as their family members.
Cypriot Interior Minister Konstantinos Petridis has indicated that, “the process of revocation of citizenship will be initiated in all cases when the audit reveals that a person or a member of his family has been accused of any crimes, or are the objects of European or international sanctions.” Even offenses committed after the passports were obtained can constitute a reason for revocation of citizenship, he added.