The European Commission said on Wednesday that programs of some European Union states to sell passports and visas to wealthy foreigners could help organized crime groups infiltrate the bloc and raise the risk of money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.
The warning is contained in the EU executive’s first report on the multi-billion-dollar industry of so-called “investment migration,” which allows rich individuals to buy citizenship or residence in countries that put them on sale.
Although legal, these schemes are sometimes run in opaque ways and without sufficient checks on those who acquire passports and visas, the Commission said, mostly raising concerns about the programs in Malta and Cyprus.
Brussels warned of risks for the entire EU as passports and residence permits issued by one country of the 28-nation bloc give unhindered access to most other member-states.
This causes “possible security risks such as money laundering, terrorist financing, corruption and infiltration of organized crime,” the Commission said.
Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria are the only EU countries which sell their citizenship, issuing “golden passports” in return for investments ranging between around 1 million and 2 million euros.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades accused Brussels of “double standards,” saying Cyprus was being unfairly targeted and that it applied the “strictest criteria” for such schemes in the EU.