Europe

Cyprus Revokes Jho Low’s Citizenship


The Republic of Cyprus has officially revoked the citizenship of Jho Low, a Malaysian national wanted in connection with the 1MDB scandal, following a comprehensive retroactive due diligence process on the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP).

The revocation is part of a wider effort by Cypriot authorities to address shortcomings in the CIP’s vetting procedures before reforms were introduced in 2018.

The Council of Ministers formally approved the Interior Minister’s proposal to issue a decree finalizing the citizenship revocation before Low filed an appeal, which an independent commission rejected on May 17th.

On June 5th, the Cypriot Cabinet upheld the decision to strip Malaysian businessman Jho Low of his Cypriot citizenship.

Cypriot law allows for the revocation of citizenship within ten years of naturalization for individuals internationally wanted for serious crimes. Low obtained his Cypriot citizenship in September 2015 through the country’s (CIP).

This wasn’t always the case, of course, as citizenship deprivation provisions did not cover the specific article of the Cypriot citizenship law that covered CIP naturalizations. This technicality temporarily halted the government’s efforts to strip citizenship from those it deemed to have acquired it inappropriately or broken its regulations post-naturalization.

Low is accused of embezzling billions from Malaysia’s 1MDB investment fund and transferring them to his personal accounts.

Low reportedly secured his Cypriot citizenship by purchasing a €5m villa in Ayia Napa. Upon discovering his criminal history, Cypriot authorities seized the villa and may confiscate it if they determine that Low obtained his citizenship through deception.

The investigation also examined the involvement of the late Archbishop Chrysostomos, who received a €300,000 check from Low’s CIP application.

When the scandal came to light, the Archbishop returned the check, which he claimed to be a donation, and a police investigation found no evidence of corruption.

This isn’t the first time Low, who Interpol wants for serious financial crimes, has lost citizenship status.

Low had also naturalized under St Kitts & Nevis’ CIP before he was charged with any criminal activity. The St Kittian government eventually revoked his citizenship.

The Jho Low Cyprus Citizenship Timeline:

2015:

  • In the spring, Jho Low applies for Cypriot citizenship through the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP). At the time, he was not a fugitive, and no international arrest warrants were issued against him.

  • On September 23rd, Jho Low’s real estate purchase in Cyprus sets off KYC/AML alarms at the Bank of Cyprus, which submitted a report on Low to Cyprus’ anti-money laundering unit MOKAS the following month.

  • Nonetheless, the Cabinet approved Jho Low’s Cypriot citizenship application on September 19th, and he received his passport the same day. On that day, the Archdiocese also received a €300,000 check from Low, which the Archbishop later said was a donation.

    2019:

    • In October, Cypriot media published leaked documents showing Jho Low obtained a Cypriot passport in 2015 despite red flags. This leads to public outrage.

    • In November, following a four-hour Cabinet meeting, the Cypriot government announced it would revoke the citizenships of 26 foreign investors, including Jho Low, granted before 2018, when vetting procedures were less strict. The individuals are given a chance to appeal.

      2020:

      • In January, it emerged that a legal technicality in Cyprus’ citizenship law (which does not allow revocation for CIP cases like Jho Low’s) is preventing the government from actually implementing the revocations announced in 2019. Ministers vow to amend the law.

      • Under pressure from the EU, Cyprus abolished its CIP in November 2020.

        2021:

        • In July, Cypriot authorities announced the completion of the revocation process for 45 foreign investors and their family members who had obtained citizenship through the CIP. Many assumed Low was among the 45 investors, but the government did not confirm nor deny it at the time.

          2024:

          • In May, the Cypriot Council of Ministers officially revokes Low’s citizenship. Low filed an appeal, which an independent commission rejected on May 17th.

          • The Cypriot Cabinet officially strips Low of his citizenship on June 5th. 

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          Ahmad Abbas AdministratorAuthorSubscriberParticipant
          Director of Content Services , Investment Migration Insider

          Ahmad Abbas is Director of Content Services at Investment Migration Insider and an 8-year veteran of the investment migration industry.

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