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End Corruption! EU Parliament Demands Ban on Golden Passport Schemes

On 9 March 2022, the EU Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to end the practice of EU countries selling citizenship by investment” (CBI). Many wealthy Russians have received EU passports in exchange for significant investments (and payments to local officials and politicians). Members of the EU Parliament voted 595 for, 12 against, and with 74 abstentions to end the Golden Passport schemes.

Citizenship by Investment

The MEPs are calling for an all-out ban on “citizenship by investment” (CBI) a/k/a Golden Passport schemes by 2025. However, they want significantly increased background checks to come into force immediately. Unfortunately, the vote is not binding. It is now up to the EU Commission to outline a detailed proposal of how to end the schemes. The EU’s national governments will then have the final say.

“The system of golden passports and visas carries with it inherent risks of tax evasion, corruption, and money laundering,” said Saskia Bricmont, a Green MEP from Belgium. “For too long, oligarchs, criminals, and corrupt politicians have had the ability to buy their way into Europe and launder their cash, image, and identities.

Parliament stresses that CBI schemes undermine the essence of EU citizenship. The practices in Malta, Bulgaria, and Cyprus would be “free-riding.” The states would have accepted applications even when requirements were not met. The governments need to terminate due to the risks they pose.

A very lucrative business

Cyprus and its Golden Passport scheme sold 922 citizenships to Russians between 2013 and 2019

Malta, Cyprus, and Bulgaria are the EU countries that have run the most lucrative golden passport schemes. Selling passports is a highly lucrative business. The Prime Minister of Malta, Robert Abela, prior to being appointed as Prime Minister, was selling passports through his law firm Abela Advocates.

According to The New York Times, more than 6,779 individuals from Russia, Ukraine, China, or Cambodia purchased citizenship in Cyprus between 2007 and 2020. Most of them were Russians; between 2013 and 2019, 922 Russians became Cyprus citizens. They needed to invest at least €2 million. Cyprus terminated its Golden Passport scheme in Oct 2020 after AlJazeera, in its report The Cyprus Papers, exposed the corruption associated with it. Cyprus has raised over €6B billion through the program. Let alone the millions in bribes.

The Golden Passport schemes have been a highly profitable business, especially for the states’ politicians and high officials. High sums of bribes flow in the process, as insiders tell us. Therefore, it is not surprising that the politicians in the countries concerned are resisting abolition.

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