Several top Melco Resorts & Entertainment executives have been granted local citizenship in Cyprus. However, the company is now under fire. The controversy centers around the Cyprus Investment Programme (CIP).
Apparently, it is a collective application for citizenship through this program for eighteen executives done in July of last year by Melco Investment Holdings.
The CIP grants wealthy foreigners Cypriot citizenship upon the receipt of funds in the amount €2.5m targeted for local development projects. The Cypriot government has announced an end to the policy as of November 1.
So what will happen to Melco? It currently operates three satellite casinos and a “temporary” larger casino in Limassol under the aegis of its Cyprus Casinos offshoot. Will it continue to develop its €550m City of Dreams Mediterranean integrated resort in the face of the on-going pandemic?
Back to the Melco directors who with their families were allegedly permitted to bypass a CIP requirement of holding residency permits for at least six months prior to application.
In addition, applicants are obliged to purchase homes worth €500k and pay local tax totaling €100k over three years. However, the three years hasn’t passed.
Melco affirms acting in accordance with the CIP rules; but Cyprus Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides’ office is investigating the fast-tracking of Melco’s executive citizenships.
Michaelide accuses the Cyprus government of refusing to turn over documentation on the subject.. Attorney General Giorgo Savvides pushed back, saying his office “is the guardian of the constitution and the laws” and “should be allowed to continue its work without hindrance.”
Meanwhile, the European Commission (EC) has opened infringement proceedings against Cyprus and Malta for such “golden passport” schemes. The EC feels that awarding citizenship in this fashion “undermines the integrity of the status of [European Union] citizenship”. It has given the respective governments two months to respond.