A large group of Russian and Ukrainian billionaires, accused of corruption, are among the hundreds of people who have acquired European passports under a “premium” visa system.
According to The Guardian, starting with 2013, the Cypriot government would have earned more than four billion dollars by granting citizenship to foreign moguls, thus giving them the right to live and work in the European Union for a certain amount of money.
Only in 2016, the Government of Cyprus would have issued over 400 such passports.
The Guardian journalists consulted a list of hundreds of names, including influential businesspeople and powerful politicians such as a former Russian parliamentarian or the founders of the largest investment Ukrainian bank.
Another benefactor of this privileged system would be an art collector who bought the US President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach villa, as well as a Syrian businessman from President Bashar al-Assad’s entourage.
Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, was targeted by the US security agencies in 2008 after being accused of corruption.
In 2010, the Government of Cyprus granted him the citizenship. A year later, in the wake of the outbreak of civil war in Syria, his citizenship was withdrawn.
Billionaire art collector Dmitry Rybolovlev came to the attention of international media after meeting with Donald Trump during the presidential campaign.
In 2005, Trump paid $41 million for a villa in Palm Beach, which he sold to a Russian businessman three years later with $95 million.
He was granted citizenship in 2012 and, according to Forbes, his fortune is estimated to $7.4 billion.