Embezzlement of public money from ‘golden’ passports scheme
Statement by AKEL MP Aristos Damianou after the meeting of the Parliamentary Internal Affairs Committee
22 September 2022
We have discussed for the second time today in the Parliamentary Internal Affairs Committee the serious problem of the level of rents, the soaring of which, especially in the cities of Nicosia and Limassol, has become a social scourge, creating insurmountable difficulties in citizens being able to acquire housing.
During the Committee’s previous session, figures were presented on the unprecedented sharp rise in rents, which range from EUR 800 to EUR 1 000 for people seeking basic housing, either for students, young couples or families who do not have their own private home. For that reason, the belief that there is a very serious problem with affordable rents is both given and common knowledge. At the same time, the conclusion is that there is no comprehensive government policy for affordable housing. Here too, the saying “one bad thing leads to another” applies”.
For many, many years, the Cyprus Land Development Corporation (CLDC) was implementing schemes offering affordable housing, through which hundreds, if not thousands, of our fellow citizens were housed. In recent years, with the changes in the political decisions [on housing policy] by the current government, the mission and purpose of the CLDC has changed drastically, culminating in the information we received at during our previous session that the CLDC was now drawing funds only in conjunction with the Cyprus Investment Programme, the well-known ‘Golden Passports’ programme. The collapse of this Programme has effectively brought about a collapse in the CLDC’s schemes, which is unacceptable, because the CLDC had to be financially self-sufficient on the one hand, but on the other hand the “dowry” from the central state had to remain with it, as was the case under previous administrations.
As a result of the Parliamentary Audit carried out, another specific issue has emerged, which we intend to investigate. On the basis of figures presented today before the Internal Affairs Committee by the Cyprus Land Development Corporation, out of the several thousand citizenships that were granted [by the Ministerial Council], from which the CLDC should have been drawing a specific amount from each investor over the years, a total of just over EUR 11 million has flowed into the CLDC’s coffers from just 128 applications for citizenship.
It might possibly be that there is a serious issue of scrutiny [that should have been exercised], not of course by the CLDC, but on the part of the central state, and at the same time there is also an issue concerning waste of public money, given the fact that the granting of citizenships exceed 7,000 in total and for the period under consideration the certainly exceed 3,000, whilst money has been received from just 128 applicants who have been granted citizenships.
At the Internal Affairs Committee’s session, the issue of affordable housing was also discussed naturally. It was pointed out once again that there is no comprehensive housing policy, nor with regards the purchase of housing, but something that caused particular sadness to the members of the Committee is that in the year 2022, it is unacceptable and at the same time provocative and sad that there are homeless fellow citizens in Cyprus today. Today, specific cases have been brought before us, and together with the rest of our colleagues in the Committee, we have undertaken to mediate so that these people can be provided with immediate shelter.
The discussion of the urgent issue will continue in the next session, as we believe that there are many shortcomings in the Government’s policies, but at the same time there are opportunities that need to be made use of.