Immigration: EU to act on Golden Visa schemes after warnings of money laundering risks

Immigration: EU to act on Golden Visa schemes after warnings of money laundering risks

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EU to act on Golden Visa schemes after warnings of money laundering risks

Upon the publication of a report, by two anti-corruption organizations, warning of money laundering risks that coming through Golden Visa schemes, the EU has immediately reacted.

The European Commission announced shortly after the publication of the report that it would provide guidance to EU states on how to manage national schemes to sell passports and residency permits to wealthy foreign citizens.

The report, called “European Getaway: Inside the Murky World of Golden Visas” was published by the anti-corruption organizations Transparency International and Global Witness. It highlights the risks arising from insufficient diligence, conflicts of interest, and wide discretionary powers in the citizenship- and residency-by-investment schemes.

Naomi Hirst, a Senior Campaigner at Global Witness, commenting on the report, called the Golden Visa Scheme a door to the EU for criminals and the corrupt.

“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,” Hirst says, adding that these schemes must have the highest standards of due diligence checks, so that countries know whom they are granting with residency and the source of their money.

At the same time, Laure Brillaud, an Anti-Money Laundering Policy Officer at Transparency International EU, claims poorly managed schemes of this nature undermine the collective security of European citizens.

“It is for this reason that EU-wide action is urgently required. Brussels needs to define standards for these programmes and ensure that they are adhered to in all Member States offering citizenship and residence permits for investment,” Brillaus says.

The key findings of the report are as follows:

  • EU has welcomed more than 6,000 new citizens and 100,000 residents through Golden Visa Schemes within the last 10 years
  • Golden Visa schemes in all member states have generated around €25 billion in last 10 years
  • Top five countries with most golden visas issued are: Spain, Hungary, Latvia, Portugal and the UK
  • Only Austria and Malta publish the lists of those gaining citizenship / residency through the scheme
  • Cyprus has raised €4.8 billion since 2013, while Malta about €718 million through such a scheme

As a result, the anti-corruption agencies behind the report, urge the EU to:

  • Set new standards to prevent the abuse of these schemes
  • Create a mechanism that regularly reassesses the risks coming from Golden Visa schemes
  • Find new ways to expand anti-money laundering requirements
  • Create mechanisms through which EU members can share information on rejected applicants
  • Take measures against member states violating the principles, values and objectives of the EU through Golden visa

The Global Anti-Corruption Consortium, spearheaded by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has supported the work of Transparency International in this report.

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