Ever since European officials started talking about another Cypriot bank bailout, the elephant in the room has been the billions of dollars of Russian “black money” in the country’s bank accounts.
A leaked German intelligence report put that number at about $26 billion last year. That’s more than Cyprus’ annual GDP, so part of what German politicians grappled with was how to bail out the country without simply bailing out loads of rich Russians that just keep their money there.
But it gets darker than that. According to the report, EU officials also fear that some of that “black money” is being laundered through Europe. Cyprus has lax citizenship requirements that make it easy for deposit-holders to gain EU citizenship, and thus access to banks all over the EU.
So what exactly does it take to get access to Europe by becoming a Cypriot?
Russian billionaire Alexander Abramov is the co-founder of international steel company Evraz. He was granted citizenship to the island nation in 2010 for “services to the Republic of Cyprus.”
That’s vague, of course, but there are also a few more clear (and simple) rules to becoming a citizen of Cyprus, according to Cyprus Mail.
- A $33 million (or more) investment in property or factories in Cyprus.
- Or if they’ve set up a business that turned over $111 million on the island the year before their application.
- Anyone with personal or company savings of over $22 million on Cyprus is also eligible.
- Anyone whose direct investment, business or personal wealth on the island comes to more than $33 million.
- Or anyone who has “introduced large scale innovative technologies or founded a large scale research centre in Cyprus.”
Abramov, for his part, acquired 50% (or more) of two Cyprus-based company and has minority stakes in two Cypriot scrap medal companies.
Sounds like a cake walk if you’ve got the loot.