Sarris for naturalizations: The 2007 program turned into something that discredited Cyprus

Untitled project 2021 01 21T124758.415 naturalizations, SARRIS

The 2007 naturalization program evolved into a very different program afterwards and had a lot of negative consequences for Cyprus, said former Finance Minister Michalis Sarris

"An initiative of 2007 evolved into a very different program that had many negative consequences for Cyprus. It had some positive short-term effects, but the negative ones were more than the positive ones ", said Mr. Sarris, testifying before the Investigative Committee of the exceptionally naturalized investors.

Mr. Sarris stated that the naturalization program was submitted in 2007 by the then Minister of Interior in order to create specific criteria for the Ministry when making naturalization decisions in exceptional cases. He noted, however, that the program was aimed at cases of foreigners living in Cyprus, mainly athletes and people of culture.

As he said, the issue was the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while the Ministry of Education and Science was interested in investments in technology and research for which there were criteria and that the Ministry of Education wanted to promote sustainable development.

Asked if the program was ultimately helpful for Cyprus, Mr. Sarris said that while in 2013 the economy was in a very difficult situation, with national income falling by 10% "we took a big risk to focus growth on one sector with a significant contribution to the crisis of 2008 ".

"The same or more powerful incentives could be given to other areas, such as innovation and technology," the 2007 law said, "and we should have known that there were people who wanted a passport in a European country for good reasons." "We should have known that a significant number (of investors) were on the verge of legality," he said.

He went on to say that "as a result, there was a radical change in the program".

"As the years passed, the character of the program changed completely, it focused on supporting the construction sector and all these problems were created, which resulted in discrediting Cyprus abroad, discouraging genuine investors and having urban problems that we face. us ", he added.

Regarding the absence of regulations, Mr. Sarris said that it is not only the regulations and laws but how you apply them.

"You can make laws, the issue is how you apply them. "To get € 2,5 million, they went through a bank clerk, they were approved by a manager, they went through the police," he said, adding that the amounts were large, the tithes large. "We had a result that was on the verge of legality, that is, they had issues where they lived and we had to be very careful."

When asked what he meant by decimals, Mr. Sarris argued that "one can assume that some of these decisions were not made only by objective criteria, there is no evidence but we are certainly talking about situations where as a result we see that they may have closed their eyes. to be open ".

Answering a question about the supervision of the program, Mr. Sarris, although he noted that he was not directly involved, some of the providers were more interested in promoting the applications.

"They had to ask some questions, but their interest was to promote the cases with financial gains that they would have," he said.

However, Mr. Sarris said that during his term of office, between August 2005 and March 2008, there was no naturalization approval by the Council of Ministers.

However, committee member Kyriakos Kyriakou reminded him that in 2007 there were five exceptional naturalization decisions, one of which concerned an athlete (in April 2007) and another a Lebanese minor (in December 2007) and that in 2008 there were another eight naturalizations.