Cyprus cancels Russian billionaires’ passports

Cyprus has revoked the citizenship of two high-profile Russian oligarchs who were naturalized during the presidency of Demetris Christofias. According to a report on Philenews, both men, embroiled in international controversies and sanctions, lost their golden passports following a decisive cabinet meeting on Wednesday, — Philenews informs.

The first oligarch, Konstantin Grigorishin, is a billionaire art collector originally from Ukraine. Born in Zaporizhzhia on November 16, 1965, Grigorishin amassed his fortune trading metallurgical products between Ukraine and Russia during the late 1980s. As the major shareholder of Energy Standard Group, he controls several prominent Ukrainian factories, including the Sumy Machine-Building Science-and-Production Association, the shipping company Ukrrichflot, and Zaporozhtransformator (ZTR).

Grigorishin acquired Cypriot citizenship on April 1, 2011. However, his fortunes took a turn on November 1, 2018, when Russia slapped sanctions on him and 321 other Ukrainian citizens. His legal woes escalated in November 2020, when he was sentenced to prison for evading $18 million in taxes and ordered to pay $32 million in compensation.

The second oligarch, Igor Kesaev, is no less controversial. Born on October 30, 1966, in North Ossetia, Kesaev is Russia’s top cigarette tycoon and the head of the Degtiariov arms company, accused of supplying separatists in eastern Ukraine. Kesaev’s connections run deep into Russia’s security apparatus; his Monolith Foundation supports retirees from the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Kesaev has been on the EU sanctions list since April 8, 2012, and is also targeted by the United States. Despite these red flags, he was naturalized in Cyprus during Christofias’s presidency. With a fortune of $3.1 billion, Kesaev is firmly entrenched on Forbes’ list of billionaires.

The revocation of these golden passports marks a significant and bold step by Cyprus as it grapples with the fallout from its contentious golden passport program, which has faced global criticism for enabling individuals with murky backgrounds to secure EU citizenship.