Controversial “Golden Passport” (or visa) schemes are again under the spotlight as one main London firm opens up at the “massive boom” in demand for its services.
Luke Hexter, handling director of Knightsbridge Capital Partners, advised Forbes that their European Passport software become riding 70% 12 months-on-year booms at the firm. This comes after Knightsbridge became embroiled in a Sunday Times and Channel Four investigation that found companies brokering U.K. Investment visas and European passports for overseas billionaires and millionaires had boasted of being able to keep away from government tests and safeguards for his or her customers.
Knightsbridge currently sells passports from Cyprus, which could deliver overseas traders and their families the proper to travel visa-free to 163 nations, in return for a $2.2 million (€2 million) funding into neighborhood belongings or finances. The island has raked in $7.Four billion (€6.6 billion) from selling passports, however, the scheme has also attracted the ire of the European Commission and OECD.
Economic growth and political instability in emerging markets created the call for thus-called Golden Passport investment programs, in line with Hexter. “If you bought a few billion–quite a few those clients could have citizenship in one country, passports in another and residency someplace else as a manner to mitigate chance,” says Hexter
“Nigeria is a high instance of a country where a variety of people are becoming very wealthy quite fast. But with the political instability, they nonetheless love their country … they simply nonetheless want to have a contingency plan in location,” he delivered. Nigeria is presently ranked by means of marketing campaign organization Transparency International as one of the world’s maximum corrupt international locations with tens of billions from its oil fields looted by means of its political and military elite.
Hexter struck a protecting tone on whether the Golden Passport enterprise and his company helped criminals to flee justice and hide their unwell-gotten profits. The enterprise can “get a bit bit of flack for pandering to sure unscrupulous high-internet-worth individuals,” the accusation is, “as some distance far from the fact as can be possible.”
Knightsbridge Capital, he says, “would not touch” what he describes as, “a politically uncovered man or woman or someone wherein there’s even a question that their wealth could have been received illegally.” He adds his firm’s purchaser assessments (KYC) are “stringent” and the EU’s due diligence is “very very strict.”
However, for those preventing global corruption, these citizen by means of funding schemes are not as benign as the London companies concerned might have you ever agree with.
Ben Cowdock, senior research officer at Transparency International, demanding situations whether British and European money laundering and history exams are effective in identifying corrupt business leaders and politicians.
The Sunday Times and Channel Four undercover research revealed how London’s private customer professionals had talked of securing a so-referred to as “golden visa” for a member of the previous Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi’s own family, along with questionable applicants from Thailand, Egypt, and Angola. One immigration expert is filmed disregarding Home Office anti-corruption checks as “clean-peasy,” claiming that the officers accountable relied entirely on Googling names.
Cowdock tells Forbes, “Our studies have discovered all too frequently firms and specialists unwittingly or knowingly presenting offerings to high-risk people, enabling them to launder each their money and reputations.”
More frequently than now not, he adds, citizenship is being sought because folks who advantage from political connections in risky international locations often need “to get away and revel in the proceeds in their corruption need to they locate themselves out of favor.”
He provides that a British passport remains visible as a public “hallmark of credibility,” warning that the bad first-rate of exams achieved on those the use of these schemes lets in them to make investments budget from questionable origins further to “laundering their reputations”—making them seem more first-rate and valid than they’re in truth.
Moldova Says No
Late closing week one of the Golden Passport region’s largest companies, Henley & Partners, saw considered one of their schemes, which gave buyers visa-free get right of entry to throughout Europe’s Schengen Zone, suspended by the Moldovan government.