Golden passports: Believing due diligence is robust is ‘fiction’ – Dutch MEP

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The Maltese Government’s decision to freeze the processing of new applications by Russian citizens for the controversial IIP scheme, particularly following the escalation of war in the Ukraine, is not enough, according to Dutch MEP Sophie in T’ Veld.

The MEP, who authored a resolution calling on the European Commission to ban the so-called golden passports said that not only new applications should be stopped, but existing beneficiaries should be looked into for possible ties with the Russian regime.

Addressing a press briefing in Strasbourg this morning, she dismissed claims by Maltese authorities that the IIP scheme is backed through robust due diligence, claiming that ultimately such assessments are based on information provided by Russian authorities, questioning their reliability. Ms in T’ Veld insisted that every effort should be made to ensure that Russian oligarchs do not benefit from any way from golden passports and golden visas.

Ms in T’ Veld added that “background checks are not serious”. The idea that due diligence could be solid, is “fiction”, she insisted.

The MEP, who is a member of the centrist Renew Group added that MEPs had no argument against investors who put their money into real businesses, creating opportunities and settling in another country, but described the sale of passports as a ‘perverse incentive’ which encourages corruption and money-laundering. She recalled that journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated precisely for investigating corruption linked to such schemes.

MEPs will later today support a resolution calling on the Commission to phase out citizenship-by-investment schemes, also known as golden passports, by 2025, while developing a regulation on residency-by-investment schemes (RBI). he European Parliament is set to vote on Wednesday on the report urging the EU to ban golden passport schemes by 2025 and immediately stop the issuance of visas and passports to rich Russians in exchange for investments.

The EP wants Member States to submit detailed annual reports to the Commission on the overall institutional and governance elements of their schemes, as well as on the monitoring mechanisms in place. They should also report on individual applications, including on rejections and approvals of applications, and the reasons for approvals or for rejections, such as non-compliance with anti-money laundering provisions.

Statistics should include a breakdown of the applicants by the country of origin and data on family members and dependents who have gained rights via an applicant under a RBI scheme. The Commission should publish those annual reports, where needed redacted in line with data protection regulations and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and should publish alongside those annual reports its assessment of them.

The report, which says that golden passports constitute free-riding and produce severe consequences for the Union and the Member States, calls for a financial contribution to the Union budget until golden passports are phased out.

CDE News – Strasbourg

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