Three Countries That has Revoked Citizenship of Investor Immigrants


In today’s world, holding a powerful passport can bring many benefits. The EU passport is one of the best examples, as it not only allows visa-free travel to over 190 countries and territories but also grants the rights of citizenship in other 27 EU countries. However, obtaining citizenship through investment does not guarantee lifelong citizenship. In fact, investors who obtain citizenship through investment in some countries may face the harsh reality of having their citizenship revoked if the passport application process is not followed correctly. Three countries have reportedly revoked the citizenship of several investors in recent years due to incomplete investments or failure to comply with application requirements. The reasons behind the decision to revoke citizenship are explored in the following discussion.


Cyprus Revokes Citizenship of 222 Individuals

In August 2020, Al Jazeera reported exclusively that Cyprus had approved nearly 2,500 EU “golden passports” for applicants from over 70 countries between 2013 and 2019, generating nearly €9 billion in revenue for the country. In November 2020, the Cypriot government announced the closure of the “golden passport” program. Subsequently, the government launched a criminal investigation, which found that about 3,457 applicants were ineligible for citizenship, accounting for approximately 51% of the total applicants. The main reason was insufficient due diligence by relevant agencies when conducting background checks on applicants. As of now, the Cypriot government has revoked 222 passports that had been issued, including those of 63 main applicants and 159 dependents. Cyprus has been conducting revocation procedures since October 2021. While the property rights of applicants are not affected, their main entitlement, the right to live, work, and enjoy welfare benefits in EU countries, has been completely revoked. The investigation is ongoing, and more revocations may occur in the future. Making Cyprus the country that revokes the most volume of  investors’ citizenship. Jho Low, the main character in the 1MDB case, is one of the most notorious names on the list.



Recently, according to local media reports, a special police unit is investigating approximately 100 cases of foreign investors who have been granted citizenship under questionable circumstances. This includes individuals wanted for crimes such as fraud, as well as those who have failed to make the necessary investments or have pretended to do so. A prominent law firm is allegedly involved in submitting 21 illegally approved applications. The government has recently revoked the citizenship of 6 illegally naturalized investors. This exposé has revealed corruption and the fact that citizenship was obtained illegally, prompting criticism from the European Union and protests in Cyprus.




During the implementation of this program, there was a lack of thorough background checks on the applicants, leading to criticism that the program was opaque and posed money laundering risks. The lenient initial screening process resulted in many ineligible applicants, including those with criminal records, ultimately obtaining Cypriot EU citizenship. However, as the investigation deepened, the identities of these criminals were uncovered, and their citizenships were subsequently revoked by the government.


Bulgaria Revokes Citizenship of 17 Individuals

The Bulgaria citizenship by investment program, which was closed in 2022, is estimated to have granted citizenship to approximately 100-200 individuals through this program. Starting from June 2019, the Bulgarian Prosecutor General’s Office has handled eight cases of obtaining citizenship through fraudulent means. Some of these cases date back to 2011. Within three months, Bulgaria revoked the citizenship of eight applicants for reasons such as “document forgery,” “incomplete investment,” “failure to maintain investment,” and “concealment of background.” However, Bulgaria’s government’s strict scrutiny of citizenship by investment applicants has not ended. As of May 2023, Bulgaria has revoked 17 “golden passports,” including 4 Russians, 4 Kazakhs, and others, among the 17 individuals who had their citizenship revoked.




Since the launch of the citizenship by investment program, just over a hundred people have obtained Bulgarian citizenship through investment. However, as many as 17 cases of irregularities have been identified among them, leading to serious questioning of the behavior of investment migration consultants by the government. The investigation is ongoing, and more citizenship revocations may occur in the future. Additionally, the citizenship of family members of the investors involved in irregularities may also be revoked. This illustrates that obtaining citizenship does not guarantee smooth sailing, as there may be government investigations and retrospective checks. Ensuring the authenticity of materials and investments during the application process and seeking advice from reliable migration consultants are prerequisites for successfully obtaining and maintaining EU citizenship.


Malta Revokes Citizenship of 5 Individuals

In March 2022, the Maltese Identity and Citizenship Agency revoked the citizenship of three investors from Egypt, China, and Russia. Abdel Wadood, an Egyptian national, obtained Maltese citizenship through the investment migration program in 2018. As a former executive at Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Capital, Wadood admitted to concealing the company’s financial status from investors, involving money laundering and fraud. His serious financial crimes not only led to the revocation of his Maltese citizenship but also sentenced him to 125 years in prison. Chinese billionaire Liu Zhongtian faced charges in the United States for evading $1.8 billion in aluminum tariffs, as well as allegations of telecommunications fraud and money laundering. Following the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the U.S. Department of the Treasury accused Russian national Evgeniya Vladimirovna Bernova, who held Maltese citizenship, of having ties to the Russian intelligence services, aiding Russia in the illegal procurement of dual-use equipment and technology for its defense department. The Maltese government subsequently announced the revocation of Bernova’s Maltese citizenship. Furthermore, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that the European Commission would take measures to restrict the issuance of “golden passports” to prevent Russian oligarchs with ties to the Russian government from acquiring EU citizenship and entering the EU financial system.







In March 2024, the Maltese government initiated the process of revoking the citizenship of Tal Dilian, the controversial CEO of Intellexa, a cyber surveillance company. Intellexa has been accused of developing and promoting intrusive monitoring tools, leading to global device intrusions. Dilian is listed as an Israeli citizen on the sanctions list but is also a citizen of Malta, likely having obtained Maltese citizenship through the old policy. Under Maltese citizenship law, the Minister has the authority to revoke the citizenship of individuals who have obtained citizenship through the IIP (or MEIN) if they engage in activities deemed “contrary to public policy or the public interest” within seven years of acquiring Maltese citizenship.



In April 2024, Joseph Mizzi, the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security of Malta, stated that they were “seriously considering” initiating the process to revoke the citizenship of Semen Kuksov, a Russian businessman. Kuksov was sentenced to 5 years and 7 months in prison in February 2024 for admitting involvement in money laundering of 14 million euros. He obtained Maltese citizenship before Malta banned Russian citizens from applying for the MEIN policy following the Russia-Ukraine war in 2022. According to the law, if a person granted citizenship is sentenced to 12 months or more in prison within seven years of acquiring citizenship, the Minister for Home Affairs has the authority to revoke their Maltese citizenship.




Risks of Citizenship Revocation

Combining the news of Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Malta revoking citizenship obtained through investment migration, the main risks faced by applicants leading to passport revocation are summarized as follows:

1.Citizenship obtained through fraud, false statements, or concealing any material fact.

2.Failure to make or maintain the required investment after receiving approval or obtaining citizenship.

3.The citizen has demonstrated disloyalty to the government through actions or statements.

4.The citizen has engaged in behavior after naturalization that is detrimental to the public interest and social stability.

5.The citizen has engaged in illegal transactions or communications with enemies.


Globevisa Follow-up Services

Since the launch of the citizenship by investment program, Malta’s due diligence process has been strict and the procedures rigorous. Globevisa, with its wealth of experience in the Malta citizenship by investment program, has been involved since Malta first introduced its program in 2015. With a professional and meticulous approach, Globevisa has helped applicants successfully obtain Maltese citizenship. There have been no instances of any Malta citizenship by investment applicants being subjected to retrospective investigations or passport revocations.


Furthermore, Globevisa’s project team provides comprehensive and thoughtful post-citizenship services for successful applicants during the five-year investment maintenance period, including lease termination, redemption of government bonds, passport renewal, family reunification, and other related matters, demonstrating our commitment to excellent and caring passport post-services.


Take one of the successful applicants in Globevisa’s MIIP program, Mr. Miller who received approval in 2019, as an example. Upon approval, he immediately completed the donation and purchased €150,000 worth of government bonds as required by the government. His bond investment matured earlier this year, and Globevisa’s professional team contacted the Malta fund company a month in advance, actively communicating with the fund company to arrange for the redemption of the bonds, assisting the client in notarizing the required documents, and meticulously checking the document signing process. In the end, Mr. Miller not only obtained an EU passport through the Malta citizenship by investment program but also successfully redeemed the bonds purchased five years ago, making his investment in citizenship a successful venture.


The Malta Citizenship by Investment program has become the top choice for many wealthy individuals seeking a one-stop solution for identity planning, thanks to its advantages in tax identity, financial identity, travel identity, and EU citizenship. It is also the last remaining citizenship by investment program in the EU. It is worth noting that in 2025, the EU may close the final window for obtaining EU citizenship through investment. At that time, obtaining an EU passport quickly will become extremely difficult. Maltese lawyers advise applicants to seize the last opportunity to start their applications as soon as possible and not to miss the chance to obtain the coveted EU “golden passport.”


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