The European Commission said on Wednesday it will provide guidance to European Union member-states on how to manage national schemes to sell passports and residency permits to wealthy foreign citizens, as campaigners and lawmakers warned of money laundering risks.
Government schemes to trade citizenship or residence rights for large investments are currently applied in Greece, Cyprus, Austria, Luxembourg, Malta, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Britain, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and France. Hungary has terminated its program.
“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,” Naomi Hirst of rights group Global Witness said.
She said checks on individuals that bought EU citizenship or residency permits were not satisfactory and exposed countries to corruption and money laundering risks.
The joint report by Global Witness and Transparency International urged the European Union to set standards for managing the schemes and to extend anti-money laundering rules, applied so far to banks or gaming firms, to all those involved in the visa-for-sale industry.
The Commission will publish a report on schemes in EU countries by the end of the year, Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Wednesday.
He said the report would offer guidance to member-states on managing the programs, “including on necessary background checks for applicants.”