The European Commission has recommended EU states end “gold pass” schemes that allow wealthy people to buy into the bloc’s citizenship and urged them to look into whether Russian oligarchs linked to the Kremlin or support the war in Ukraine should be stripped of previously granted citizenship rights.
The Commission launched infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta over their golden passport schemes in 2020, and the Russian war in Ukraine has raised the issue.
The commission warned that some Russian or Belarusian citizens who are among the 877 people affected by asset freezes and travel bans since 2014, or who support the Russian invasion of their neighbor, may have obtained EU citizenship or have access to the EU Schengen area had schemes.
The EU executive said countries should now consider withdrawing golden passports issued to such individuals.
It also recommended immediately withdrawing residence permits issued under an investor program from Russian or Belarusian citizens who support the war or are subject to sanctions.
Malta and Bulgaria currently have citizenship-by-investment schemes operational, while Cyprus, which abolished its own scheme in November 2020, will only process applications submitted before that date. Bulgarian lawmakers recently backed a decision to end its golden passport scheme.
Cyprus canceled the show after an undercover TV report allegedly showed the speaker of parliament and a powerful lawmaker claiming they could circumvent the rules to issue a passport to a fictional Chinese investor allegedly convicted of fraud at home.
A 2021 report found that more than half of the 6,779 passports issued over the 13-year life of the scheme, which raised over €8 billion, were unlawfully issued to relatives of wealthy investors. According to the report, the government misconstrued the law on issuing passports to relatives and also found that nearly 770 foreign nationals were wrongly granted citizenship, mainly due to insufficient verification.
According to the EU Parliament, 12 EU countries operate residency-through-investment schemes. Minimum investment amounts range from €60,000 to €1,250,000.
It comes as a “Golden Pass” scheme backed by former Taoiseach John Bruton, which wealthy Russians were trying to use to obtain Irish visas, has opened a second round of funding and could raise as much as €250 million.
The Irish Diaspora Loan Fund (IDLF) has already raised more than $80 million since registering with US regulators in December.
The scheme is part of the Department of Justice’s Immigrant Investor Scheme, launched in 2012 to attract scarce capital to support Irish jobs.
Its first iteration, which raised €50m in 2018, attracted mainly wealthy Russians – who made up half of the applicants – alongside many Chinese and Middle Easterners looking to emigrate to Ireland.
However, Mr Furnish said IDLF “didn’t have a single Russian in the program”.
“There was a lot of interest from Russia, but when we started looking at it as a regulated entity and all anti-money laundering regulations, it wasn’t worth it and we didn’t apply to the Ministry of Justice,” he said.
Justice Secretary Helen McEntee said earlier this month that Russian citizens will no longer receive applications to Ireland’s Immigrant Investor Program following the invasion of Ukraine.
Yesterday Didier Reynders, EU Commissioner for Justice and Consumers said: “European values cannot be bought. We believe that selling citizenship through golden passports is illegal under EU law and poses serious risks to our security.
“It opens the floodgates to corruption, money laundering and tax avoidance.”
The commission’s recommendation came after European lawmakers earlier this month called for an end to the sale of citizenship through investment schemes and better regulation of residence through investment schemes.
In addition to its call to “immediately repeal all existing investor citizenship regimes,” the Commission also called on EU countries to carry out strict controls before issuing investor residence permits.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/eu-nations-told-to-end-golden-passport-schemes-following-russian-invasion-of-ukraine-41496780.html The EU states are to end the “Golden Pass” systems after the Russian invasion of Ukraine