Ban passport selling schemes in the EU, European Socialists say

The Socialists and Democrats group, of which the Maltese Labour Party is a member, says golden visa schemes put at risk the European Union’s integrity and security

The Socialists and Democrats group, which counts the Labour Party amongst its members, is advocating for the banning of golden visa schemes
The Socialists and Democrats group, which counts the Labour Party amongst its members, is advocating for the banning of golden visa schemes

The European Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats group have called for a ban on European Union countries from selling passports, which they say are putting the Union’s integrity and security at risk.

During a hearing of its financial crimes committee on Monday, the group - of which Malta's Labour Party is a member - said EU-wide action had to be taken to tackle money laundering linked to golden visa schemes run by some of its member states.

Four EU member states - including Malta - 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 visa schemes offered by a number of EU member states.

“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,” S&D vice-president responsible for taxation Jeppe Kofod, and group spokespersons Peter Simon and Pervenche Berès said.

“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 MEPs highlighted.

The MEPs said that numerous high-risk business people and oligarchs were enjoying the benefits which golden visas offer, with a new report from Transparency International and Global Witness showing that member states’ 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,” they emphasised.

They went on to call for EU countries to apply vigorous due diligence in national citizenships schemes, saying they had introduced an amendment to the EU’s anti-money laundering directive to render enhance due diligence compulsory for all applicants.

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