“The first criminal case concerning the naturalisation of foreign investors and business people was registered at Larnaca district court,” it said in a statement.

The action against five individuals and four legal entities, facing a total of 37 charges, was taken based on the findings of an ad hoc committee, it said, without giving names.

The legal service said “sensitive details” would not be disclosed due to the “seriousness” of the investigation.

Last November, Cyprus dropped its so-called “golden passport” scheme after Al Jazeera television aired a documentary showing reporters posing as fixers for a Chinese businessman seeking a Cypriot passport despite having a criminal record.