20th October 2020, London – After years of campaigning against the EU wide abuse of golden visas, Global Witness today warmly welcomes news that the European Union is finally taking concrete action against these schemes.
An announcement from the European Commission’s Vice-President that they will be taking legal action against Cyprus and Malta comes following Al Jazeera’s “Cyprus Papers” investigation that reported convicted fraudsters, money launderers and politicians accused of corruption had gained access to Europe via Cypriot golden visas.
Previous research from Global Witness and Transparency International has highlighted the lack of transparency, insufficient due diligence and weak governance of these schemes, making them a tool of choice for criminals and the corrupt. Last March, Global Witness found that despite tough talk, the European Commission had not done enough through either legislation nor enforcement, to eliminate the risks posed by these schemes.
“Countless news stories and NGO investigations have sounded the alarm over the use of schemes by the criminal and corrupt to buy access to Europe. Whilst appearing to agree with those warnings, the European Commission was slow to properly crackdown on golden visas. It is therefore music to our ears to see the EU finally taking concrete action against two countries whose schemes pose the highest risk. Whilst today’s news is a positive step the most sure-fire method to remove the risks attached to golden visas is to scrap them altogether.” - Rachel Owens, Head of EU Office at Global Witness
In addition to enforcement action against countries that grant golden visas to high-risk individuals, Global Witness has called on the European Commission to propose EU-wide rules that will ensure a phase-out of golden visas, and on the Member States to support these efforts.