Cyprus shows an increase in crime rates compared to 2021, according to the new assessment of 193 countries worldwide.

The second report of the organization «Global Initiative against International Organized Crime» for the year 2023, presents Cyprus to be in 129th place worldwide in the ranking for crime. It is 29th in the table of 44 European countries and 6th in the list of eight southern European states.

In the world rankings, Cyprus is not in such a tragic situation. Suffice it to say that the higher a country is in the relevant table, the bigger the problem it faces.

Indicatively, in the first three places we find countries such as Myanmar (1st – 8.15/10), Colombia (2nd – 7.75/10) and Mexico (3rd – 7.57/10).
However, Cyprus’ rating in 2021 had a score of 4.19 out of 10 and ranked 134th. That is, it moved up five notches, since it has now recorded a score of 4.43/10 and is 129th.

As we noted, the higher a country climbs in this ranking, the bigger the problem.

The analysis accompanying the assessment of Cyprus shows that the biggest crime problem in Cyprus is related to migrant smuggling. In addition, Cyprus’ negative performance is affected by Turkey and the pseudo-state, for which a double-digit number of petitions are made. Reference is also made to the Russian mafia and suspicious funds that negatively affect Cyprus in general.
Illegal immigration

Cyprus, due to its geographical position between three continents and the Green Line, is becoming a popular destination for irregular migration and is used by smugglers either as a transit station or as a final destination for irregular migrants.

This is the largest crime market in Cyprus, followed by human trafficking and drugs. People arrive in small boats and merchant ships, while universities are illegally established in the occupied areas (the acronym «TRNC» is used), offering residence permits to students of African descent, most of whom never attend classes.

On the contrary, once they arrive, they are guided to cross the buffer zone and seek asylum in the Republic of Cyprus. In addition, some people attempt to obtain asylum through sham marriages.

It also refers to extortion carried out by organised crime groups and controlling at night, particularly in popular tourist destinations, «not only in coastal areas, but also in the hinterland».

At the beginning of the report on crime in Cyprus reference is made to «sexual exploitation which is extremely widespread, especially during the tourist season». It explains how victims are forced to have sex with clients while working in bars, massage parlours, hotels, private apartments and sex services businesses.» It also states that «young women are recruited to trade in sexual services through the abuse of short-term tourist visas».

Trade in Cyprus, according to the experts who drafted the report, is negatively affected by the pseudo-state. Although there is a high percentage of gun ownership in Cyprus, the number of crimes committed with firearms is relatively small. It is added, however, that many firearms end up in the Republic of Cyprus through the pseudo-state.

There is also talk of counterfeit products in the occupied areas: «Counterfeit products are a major problem in Cyprus, with many counterfeits coming from Turkey. The country loses millions of euros annually due to counterfeiting and piracy.

Counterfeit goods seized during recent police operations include clothing, accessories, mobile phone cases, toys, perfumes and other items. Illegal trafficking is validated in the UN demilitarized security zone between Astromeritis and Nicosia. The zone is difficult to control, contributing to an increase in smuggling and criminal activities. The illegal trade includes large quantities of tobacco, pesticides, fireworks and other products illegally imported from the TRNC.»

In the analysis of Cyprus’ financial crime, it is noted that even though our state is not a tax haven, the country continues to have a flexible tax system and attract suspicious money. The reports also include the Cyprus Investment Programme, which is a martyr for our island state: «Financial crimes in Cyprus include internet fraud and forgeries, while detection rates remain low.

Phishing attacks are a major problem in the country, with victims receiving fraudulent emails that appear to come from their bank, falsely stating that their account has been temporarily closed. Victims have also reported activities such as hacking electronic communications, fraudulent websites, and social media payment scams.

Revenues from the EU budget are another target of financial crime in Cyprus. Overall, despite losing its tax haven status, the country continues to have a flexible tax system and attract suspicious money.

The so-called «financial managers» supposedly helped Russian oligarchs hide their funds for years. However, the most infamous incident was related to Cyprus’ now-defunct Investment Programme, which allowed individuals to buy a Cypriot passport by investing at least €2.15 million in the country. It was later revealed that dozens of people had been granted Cypriot citizenship despite reports that they were involved in criminal activities, were under investigation for criminal acts or were considered high-risk for corruption.

The factors

Among the important factors aggravating Cyprus’ position is a reference to the Russian mafia. The Russian mafia wields the greatest economic and financial influence and is the best connected criminal group in Cyprus.

In areas that are not under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus, there are many people sought by INTERPOL. These foreign criminals work closely with domestic criminals. They have high influence in the country and have a share of the drug trafficking market, as well as illegal gambling, trafficking in women and property crimes.»

Finally, Cyprus hosts more than a dozen organised criminal groups that supposedly operate across the country, in cities such as Nicosia, Famagusta, Paphos and Limassol. They are mainly involved in drug trafficking, tobacco smuggling, extortion, illegal betting and match-fixing. They usually invest their revenues in legitimate economic sectors, such as real estate and the food service industry.»

Resilience and research

Regarding the «resilience» of Cyprus, it is evaluated with a score of 4.46/10 and occupies the 117th place among 193 countries. It is 40th in Europe and last in the ranking with Southern European states. In 2021 Cyprus had a score of 4.42/10 and was three notches lower.

The Global Initiative against International Organized Crime (GI-TOC) is a non-governmental organization, and with 100 permanent staff and 500 experts at its side, it compiles the «organized crime index» in order to equip the effort to fight crime worldwide.

The two reports released in 2021 and 2023 were funded by the US. It was within the framework of the ENACT project, which is supported by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies, interpol, but also the cooperation of the Global Initiative against International Organized Crime.