Asia's richest woman among 500 Chinese who bought 'golden passports' via Cyprus

WION Web Team
NEW DELHI Published: Aug 28, 2020, 03:59 PM(IST)

Chinese flag at one of the concentration camp, which are dubbed as 'reeducation centres'. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Among the more than 500 approved Chinese applicants, the Qatari broadcaster provided eight names, led by Yang Huiyan, a principal owner of Chinese property developer Country Garden.

Information based on leaked documents reveal that China's richest woman, Yang Huiyan,  is among the 500 other wealthy Chinese people, who have obtained European Union (EU) citizenship by purchasing a 'golden passport' in Cyprus.

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According to reports, Yang is among more than 500 high-net-worth Chinese citizens who have acquired "golden passports" by each investing at least 2 million Euros (US$2.3 million).

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Since the tiny island country is a member of the EU, obtaining a Cypriot passport has become a backdoor to quickly enable wealthy individuals to gain EU citizenship.

There are total 2500 listed names in these documents. Among the names 500 are from China and 350 from the Middle East.

What is Cyprus's 'golden passport'

Cyprus has had a citizenship for investment plan in place since 2013, under which a minimum 2 million-euro investment can buy a passport and visa-free travel throughout the European Union.

Authorities say the programme has gone through several transformations, and was overhauled in February 2019 with five different due-diligence layers, compared with one in 2013.

Full list not disclosed

Al Jazeera did not disclose the full list of immigrants who were granted citizenship in Cyprus under the so-called golden passports programme, as the disclosure focuses on people with track records that could violate rules for obtaining the European Union citizenship. Among the more than 500 approved Chinese applicants, the Qatari broadcaster provided eight names, led by Yang Huiyan, a principal owner of Chinese property developer Country Garden.

Yang was named by Forbes as the sixth-richest woman in the world in 2020 with a fortune of $20.3 billion. It is legal for the Chinese citizens to apply for permanent residency or citizenship in foreign countries. However, China does not recognise dual nationality.

Among the eight Chinese applicants named by Al Jazeera, five, including Yang, were disclosed because they could be viewed as "politically exposed persons" for their own membership or their family's membership in the Chinese legislature and political consultative committees, the Post report said. Yang's wealth came mainly from her father, Yeung Kwok Keung who is a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top political consultative body to Beijing.

The leaked documents showed that Yang was granted Cypriot citizenship on October 23, 2018. The second Chinese "politically exposed person" is Lu Wenbin, a delegate to the Chengdu People's Congress.

According to the documents provided by Al Jazeera, Lu obtained a Cypriot passport in July 2019. Lu is the chairman of Sichuan Troy Information Technology, a computer-networking firm based in the city.

(With inputs from agencies)

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