The European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said on October 10 that a report on the sale of passports and residency permits to wealthy foreign citizens – commonly known as ‘golden visas’ – where European governments scheme to trade citizenship or certain rights in exchange for large investments from non-EU nationals primarily from former Soviet republics, including Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan.
Avramopoulos said the Commission will include in its reports details of how certain EU members’ policy of passports-for-investments puts the bloc at risk of money laundering as some of the schemes are not properly managed
Nearly half of the EU’s 28 members, including Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain have a golden visas programme. According to a joint report by Global Witness and Transparency International titled “European Getaway – Inside the Murky World of Golden Visas”, these 13 countries accumulated a minimum of €25 billion in foreign direct investment over the last decade from the sale of only 6,000 passports and nearly 100,000 residency permits.
The report has urged the EU institutions to set binding standards for managing the schemes in question and to extend anti-money laundering rules for banks or gaming firms to “all those involved in the visa-for-sale industry.”
Acquiring passports under the current scheme costs on average €900,000, while a Cypriot passport costing up to €2 million and allowed the Eastern Mediterranean island nation to raise €4.8 billion from the sale of documents that allow foreigners to reside in the country. The lack of transparency over the issue of passports also allowed Portugal to earn nearly €1 billion a year, according to figures cited in the report.
“Poorly managed schemes allow corrupt individuals to work and travel unhindered throughout the EU and undermine our collective security,” Transparency International’s Laure Brillaud said in a statement.