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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 26.06.2019, 13:23

Campaign groups warn of money laundering risks posed by EU visa selling programs

BC, Riga, 10.10.2018.Print version
Programs run by some European Union countries to sell passports and residency permits to wealthy foreign citizens pose risks of money laundering as some of the schemes are not properly managed, informs LETA referring to Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday citing warnings from campaign groups.

Government schemes to trade citizenship or residence rights for large investment are currently applied in 13 EU countries: Austria, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Britain, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and France. Hungary has terminated its program.

“If you have a lot of money that you acquired through dubious means, securing a new place to call home far away from the place you stole from isn’t just appealing, it’s sensible,” Reuters quoted Naomi Hirst of rights group Global Witness as saying.

She said checks on individuals that bought EU citizenship or residency permits were not satisfactory and exposed countries to corruption and money laundering risks.

The joint report by Global Witness and Transparency International urged the European Union to set standards for managing the schemes and to extend anti-money laundering rules, applied so far to banks or gaming firms, to all those involved in the visa-for-sale industry.

The European Commission is expected to publish a report on schemes in EU countries by December, an EU official said.

Acquiring these documents costs on average 900,00 euros, but Cyprus’ passport could cost up to 2 mln euros, the report said.

Cyprus has raised 4.8 bln euros from its scheme, while Portugal could earn nearly a bln euros a year, according to figures cited in the report, called “European Getaway – Inside the Murky World of Golden Visas”.

EU states generated around 25 bln euros in foreign direct investment in a decade from selling at least 6,000 passports and nearly 100,000 residency permits, the report said using what it called conservative estimates.

The report said in Malta, which has raised 718 mln euros from its scheme, applicants who have criminal records or are under investigation could still be considered eligible “in special circumstances”.

“Poorly managed schemes allow corrupt individuals to work and travel unhindered throughout the EU and undermine our collective security,” Laure Brillaud, anti-money laundering expert at Transparency International, said.

All the countries who run these schemes, except Britain, Cyprus, Ireland and Bulgaria, are part of the Schengen free-movement area which comprises 26 European states.


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