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Pssst. Wanna buy a passport?

At least 20 countries are selling residence and citizenship under so-called Golden Visa programs, according to Transparency International.

The cost is anywhere from around $300,000 up to $12 million or more.

TI cited a recent series of reports by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a global network of investigative journalists.

Among the countries currently offering Golden Visa programs, TI said, are 13 European countries:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus
  • Greece
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Switzerland, and
  • the United Kingdom.

Austria, Cyprus, and Malta offer both citizenship and residence programs, TI said.

Golden Visa programs can attract legitimate investments from outside. But TI said corrupt offficials and others can use the programs to flee prosecution or launder money through big real estate investments connected to the programs.

OCCRP reporters investigated Golden Visa programs in Austria, Cyprus, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Portugal, and proposed programs in Armenia and Montenegro.

“New EU citizens under these schemes include persons from the ‘Kremlin list’ who are believed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin (Malta); and Tatiana Yumasheva, daughter of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin (Austria). Several members of Angola’s ruling class may have qualified for the scheme through their real estate purchases in Portugal,” TI said.

In Austria, an investiment of  “at least €10 million ($12 million) into a suitable project is required,” according to Stefan Kraus, the chief of staff at Henley & Partners Austria.

The firm describes itself as “the global leader in residence and citizenship planning.”

In addition to Austria, Henley & Partners lists citizenship progams in Antigua and Barbuda, Cyprus, Grenada, Malta, St Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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2 Comments

  1. Taxe3, established by the EU will launch an investigation for the first time regarding tax privileges established under citizenship programs or non-dom regimes offered by Portugal, Italy, Malta, the United Kingdom, Cyprus as well as crown dependencies and overseas territories.
    Since the power to levy taxes is central to the sovereignty of the EU Member States, which have assigned only limited competences to the EU in this area, Taxe3 will need to be confirmed by a plenary vote in March in order to undertake the financial crimes inquiry within the next twelve months.

  2. Fascinating. It would be interesting to assess how the US mitigates corruption risk for similar programs (EB-5 and E-2 visas).


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