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EU to launch legal action over Cyprus, Malta 'golden passports'

The EU said Monday it will begin legal action against Cyprus and Malta over their controversial "golden passport" schemes for foreign investors, which critics say have been exploited by criminals.

Cyprus said last week it would scrap its programme, which has brought the island some seven billion euros ($8.25 billion), from next month after an undercover TV investigation exposed abuses.

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said that so-called "infringement procedures" would be launched against the two countries on Tuesday.

"It's very important to underline the fact that the commission has frequently raised its serious concerns about those schemes with the member states concerned, and the latest developments only reaffirm those concerns," Sefcovic told reporters.

"We will continue our intensive contacts with both Cyprus and Malta to make sure European law in this area would be properly respected."

Sefcovic said more details of the legal action would be announced once it is launched on Tuesday.

Under the Cypriot scheme, the government handed out passports in exchange for an investment of 2.5 million euros ($3 million), though Nicosia is now re-examining all 4,000 successful cases.

In August, broadcaster Al-Jazeera reported that dozens of people who had applied for Cyprus's golden passports were under criminal investigation or international sanctions, or serving prison sentences.

Malta, which started selling passports to wealthy foreigners in 2014, last month arrested former prime minister Joseph Muscat's chief of staff as part of a probe into alleged kickbacks connected to its own golden passport scheme.

Topics: EU , Cyprus , Malta , "golden passport" , foreign investors , Maros Sefcovic
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