Schemes by European nations that allow easy access to citizenship and residency for rich individuals in exchange for their substantial investment in the country are promoting criminals and corrupt to find a safe haven in Europe, says an international report.
Such ‘Golden Visa’ schemes with their lax, opaque, and mismanaged rules have led to investment migration becoming a growing, multi-billion-euro industry, the report by anti-corruption agencies Transparency International and Global Witness said.
“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. Golden Visa schemes offer a safe haven from authorities who might be looking to seize your stolen assets and the freedom to travel without raising suspicion,” said Naomi Hirst, a Senior Campaigner at Global Witness.
At least six thousand passports and nearly 100,000 residency permits have been sold in the EU in the last decade under such schemes, data in the report said. Spain, Hungary, Latvia, Portugal and the United Kingdom have granted the highest numbers of these – over 10,000 each.
They have helped generate €25 billion in foreign direct investment.
A week ago, police in Finland had raided a real-estate agency involved in a €10 million money-laundering operation which was controlled by a Russian businessperson who reportedly purchased Maltese citizenship.
“Poorly managed schemes allow corrupt individuals to work and travel unhindered throughout the EU and undermine our collective security. It is for this reason that EU-wide action is urgently required,” said Laure Brillaud, Anti-Money Laundering Policy Officer at Transparency International EU.