Portugal’s golden visa policy has secretly “sold” access to Europe for business executives implicated in a Brazilian corruption scandal and the relatives of an Angolan politician accused of bribery, according to documents leaked to The Guardian.

The Portuguese newspaper, Expresso, in connection with the Guardian in the UK, revealed that several executives caught up in the Brazilian “car wash” corruption scandal have bought access to Europe through property purchases in the country.

For instance, Otávio Azevedo, former president of the construction company Andrade Gutierrez, bought a €1.4m property in Lisbon and before applying for a golden visa in 2014. He received an 18-year sentence in Brazil last year after admitting to a string of corruption offences.

The news follows another leak that suggests Russian oligarchs and a Syrian businessman under US sanctions were among hundreds of investors granted citizenship from Cyprus in exchange for cash investment.

As reported by The Guardian, the two leaks offer a detailed insight into golden visa schemes, whereby countries trade passports, citizenship or visas for investment from wealthy individuals.

Portugal’s “golden resident permit” programme requires investors to place €500,000 in property in exchange for permanent residence. After five years, residence can be converted to citizenship, granting investors the right to live and work throughout Europe under EU rules.

According to the government, 66% of the “golden visas” issued since 2012 have been to Chinese applicants, despite it being illegal in China to transfer more than $50,000 out of the country in a single year.