Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska ‘stripped of Cyprus citizenship’ in clampdown on cash-for-visa scheme

Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin, has had his Cypriot citizenship revoked as the island nation clamps down on abuse of its passport-for-investment programme, according to local media. 

Cyprus has stripped 26 wealthy people of their citizenship rights as part of a review of the 2013 policy that granted a passport to anybody who invested at least $2.2 million in the local economy, the Politis newspaper reported.

The Cypriot government has not confirmed the report. Mr Deripaska was once Russia’s richest man, making his fortune by consolidating Siberia’s vast aluminum resources under his control in the 1990s.

His estimated net worth today is $3 billion. Cypriot citizenship, which Mr Deripaska gained in 2017, granted him the right to travel and live across the European Union without the restrictions faced by Russian passport-holders.

In 2018, the US sanctioned Mr Deripaska over his alleged ties to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, arguing that he and other Russian oligarchs directly benefited from the Putin regime’s bad behaviour abroad. 

Three of Mr Deripaska’s companies were also sanctioned, though those were later lifted as part of an agreement that saw him divest his controlling shares in the firms.

Unidentified representatives of Mr Deripaska were quoted in the Russian press on Wednesday denying the Politis report.

The RBC news outlet quoted a representative as saying “no official notice of any kind” has been issued by the Cypriot government.

Asked by reporters in Moscow if the reports were true, a Kremlin spokesman said it did not concern Russia but was an "internal issue" for Cyprus and Mr Deripaska. 

Earlier this month, Cyprus announced it had identified 26 recipients of Cypriot passports under the citizenship-for-investment program that were under review.

The list included nine Russian citizens, Reuters reported at the time. 

According to Politis, those nine Russians Deripaska, his wife and his daughter, as well as businessmen Vladimir Stolyarenko and Alexander Bondarenko and their families.

The list is also reported to include Cambodians, Chinese, Kenyan, Melasian and Iranian nationals. 

The citizenship-for-investment programme has come under intense scrutiny following reporting by Reuters that claimed to show the scheme has been manipulated by corrupt officials and political allies close to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

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