Stergios Pitsiorlas, Greece’s alternate Minister of Economy and Development has announced the country plans to extend the “golden visa” foreign investors incentive program over the next two months.
During a short press conference earlier this week, Mr Pitsiorlas unveiled a new bill draft offering residence to foreign investors placing €800,000 in Greek government bonds as well as to those placing €400,000 in bonds or shares of real estate investment companies, or in deposits at the country’s banks – the same goes for buying property.
This is a wide-spread policy mainly in crisis stricken Eastern European countries, however, since 2017 there has been strong opposition to the program from northern European countries as such an implementation has seen criminals from outside the European Union use investment as a way in.
Meanwhile, Cyprus’ Golden Visa program offering residency permits to rich foreign investors is reportedly among 21 that the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said are being used by criminals, having uncovered many cases of tax evasion among other frauds and unlawful activities.
In July, there was a warning that wealthy foreigners who can buy so-called Golden Visas to get residency permits in Cyprus – without living there but able to reside in other European Union countries – could find themselves in a bind if the government decides to grant companies or individuals selling investments the right to operate as licensed advisers.
According to the OECD the schemes offered by Cyprus and 20 other countries “potentially pose a high-risk to the integrity of CRS.”
“Potentially high-risk CBI/RBI schemes are those that give access to a low personal tax rate on income from foreign financial assets and do not require an individual to spend a significant amount of time in the jurisdiction offering the scheme,” the report said.
The other countries on the list were Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Colombia, Dominica, Grenada, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Montserrat, Panama, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, Turks and Caicos Islands, the United Arab Emirates and Vanuatu.
According to the report, titled ‘European Getaway – Inside the Murky World of Golden Visas’. Cyprus’ CBI marketing says the island offers “the quickest, most assured route to citizenship of a European country”.
“Programs run by some EU countries to sell passports and residency permits to wealthy foreign citizens pose risks of money laundering as some of the schemes are not properly managed,” a joint report by Global Witness and Transparency International stated. “The statistics seem to support this; Cyprus’ passports-for-sale scheme is the most prolific of its kind in Europe, with 3,300 foreign nationals having secured EU passports since 2013.”
Said programs are currently still available in 13 EU countries outside Greece: Austria, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Britain, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and France while Hungary has terminated its program.