By Joseph Cartwright
Last week, Portugal’s parliament rejected an opposition bill which would have abolished the country’s ‘Golden Visa Scheme’.
The scheme allows the wealthy elite and their associated to skip to the front of the immigration line, and, in return for a sizeable ‘investment’, access to the security that comes with European citizenship.
Critics of the system say it is outrageously unfair and vulnerable to abuse by criminals, tax evaders and money launderers.
Transparency International Portugal’s (TI PT) President Joao Paulo Batalha, told OCCRP (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) that it has “always been Government policy … to ignore the serious risks involved, not only those concerning corruption and money laundering, but also infiltration of organized crime and terrorist networks into the Schengen area through the purchase of these visas.”
Batalha says that Portuguese politicians voted on the issue without the government releasing any information on the scheme and was also dogged by advice given by a lawyer who had a conflict of interest by advising clients on the special visa.
Last year, the British government planned to suspend their golden visa scheme after their Migration Advisory Committee concluded that the Tier 1 visa brought very few benefits to UK residents, but significantly benefited the applicant with the rule of law, security of assets and access to high-quality education systems for their dependents.
A report published by the Committee concluded: The evidence we received from partners highlighted that financial considerations are very much secondary to non-financial considerations, with British citizenship often as the ultimate prize. What is less clear is the extent to which UK residents benefit from the existence of the route, and even if they benefit at all.”
Following the vote, Portugal’s Parliament announced an amendment to the scheme which would allow an investor putting € 500,000 into “green projects” to be granted a golden visa, although what constitutes a “green project” isn’t defined.