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Today, during a hearing in the financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance committee, S&D MEPs called for more EU wide action to tackle money laundering linked to golden visa schemes in the EU. The S&Ds examined, together with experts from the OECD and Global Witness, the possible money-laundering risks posed by the practice of golden visa programmes.

 Four EU member states sell passports and 12 grant residence, mainly to non-EU citizens, in exchange for investment. In the last decade, over 6,000 passports and almost 100,000 residency permits have been issued through golden visas schemes offered by a number of EU member states.
 
Commenting on the risks of the schemes for corruption, S&D Group vice-president responsible for taxation, Jeppe Kofod MEP, S&D Group spokesperson for the Parliament's special committee on tax, Peter Simon MEP, and S&D Group spokesperson on economic and monetary affairs, Pervenche Berès MEP stated:
 
“With the application of golden visa schemes, Europe has opened its doors to the possibly criminal and corrupt. Several member states are running a lucrative business of trading EU citizenship for money and investments.”

“The schemes on sale of citizenship and golden visas pose serious risks for massive money laundering, tax evasion, and unfair taxation, as well as for the infiltration of organised crime in the EU. They offer a safe haven from authorities and the right to travel freely within the EU. The examples abound, with numerous high-risk business people and oligarchs enjoying all the benefits that golden visas have to offer. The new report from Transparency International and Global Witness shows that scrutiny of applicants and their fortunes is highly inconsistent. Moreover, the processes through which passports and residency permits are granted are opaque, thereby raising serious questions about the authenticity of the economic and the personal reasons given by applicants in order to secure EU passports and/or residency permits.”

“Golden visa schemes pose a great risk to the EU’s integrity and security and should therefore be banned. EU passports and visas are not and should not be a commodity!”
 “EU member states must uphold the highest standards of transparency and rigorous vetting processes before granting nationality and residence to foreign nationals. It is indispensable that they properly scrutinise the sources of their wealth and funds.”

 “We Socialists and Democrats call on EU member states to apply vigorous due diligence in national schemes for applicants of nationality and residence. To this end, we introduced an amendment in the 5th Anti-money laundering directive to render enhanced due diligence compulsory for all applicants. Member states will have to transpose this obligation until 2020. In the same vein, to avoid conflicts of interest and corruption, all intermediaries working on these schemes should also be certified and properly scrutinised. Applying the highest level of transparency and enhanced scrutiny is key.”

 “We call on the European Commission to publish its report on citizenship by investment schemes as soon as possible. The Commission must set clear and effective rules for these programmes and ensure that all governments comply. We need to step up the fight against money laundering without further delay! We S&Ds stand ready to propose further legislative action in this regard, pending the outcome of the Commission's report and make full use of the current proposal on the review of the European Supervisory Authorities.”
 
Note to editors:

·     Golden visa schemes offer fast-track citizenship and/or residency to foreign nationals in exchange for large sums of money. European golden visas are particularly appealing, thanks to the rights they grant.
·     Four member states sell passports (Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta) and 12 grant residency rights to foreign investors.
·     Currently, 13 countries apply schemes to trade citizenship or residence rights for investment. They are Austria, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Britain, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and France.
·     The highest numbers of ‘golden visas’ to investors and their families were granted by Spain, Hungary, Latvia, Portugal and the UK, followed by Greece, Cyprus and Malta.
·     According to the report “European Getaway – Inside the murky world of golden visas”, EU member states have attracted approximately €25 billion in foreign direct investment through the golden visa programmes over the last ten years.
·     The price of the EU golden visa schemes varies.  A residency permit can cost €250,000 in Greece or Latvia, whereas a passport in Cyprus can cost around €2 million or sometimes up to €10 million in Austria.

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