Golden visa granting in Portugal reveals lack of rigor

  • ECO News
  • 6 March 2018

Golden visa granting in Portugal reveals lack of rigor, stated Transparency International, adding there is not enough diligence to confirm the origin of the patrimony.

Portugal is one of the European Union countries lacking rigor in granting golden visas, according to Transparency International. The organization also defended there is not enough diligence to confirm the origin of applicants’ patrimony.

In the presentation of a joint investigation with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), in Brussels, the strategical director of Transparency International, Casey Kelso, pointed to Portugal and Hungary as examples of EU countries that have not been “rigorous enough” in complying with due diligence in granting golden visas. “In Portugal, there is not enough diligence to ascertain the origin of candidates’ wealth”, highlighting that the only document requested is a criminal record.

Kelso adds that Portugal is a case study of how such programmes can corrupt a Government, highlighting the case of former minister for the Interior Miguel Macedo, who is in trial for the proceeding investigating the granting of golden visas to foreign citizens. “The trial taking place in Portugal is a prime example of the dangers of golden visas. Eleven people who exercised public positions are in trial”, reinforced Rachel Owens, from Global Witness, recalling that someone who obtains the Portuguese citizenship can move around freely in the European Union.

In Portugal, the investigation highlights the acquisition of golden visas from Angola’s leaders, by means of purchasing real estate in Portuguese territory. “We don’t know how much is being invested in real estate, because it is such a cloudy sector that we just can’t get the data”, Kelso acknowledged, arguing that the “excessive” housing prices registered in Lisbon are a consequence of the programme.

According to data published by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, between October 2012 (when the programme was launched) and January of 2018, golden visas represented a 3.5 billion euros’ investment, and from that total, 3.1 billion came from the real estate sector. The manager of Transparency International, Carl Dolan, stated he is “increasingly worried” about what these schemes represent for the integrity of the Schengen Area. “These people are buying their access to community citizenship and to the European Union”, he stated.

The investigation concluded that the golden visa programmes are vulnerable to abuse and undermine the fight against corruption in the European Union and its neighboring countries, due to the absence of rigorous scrutiny to the origin of the wealth of those benefiting from golden visas and also due to the opacity of the identity of recipients. “Golden visas are irresistible for smaller countries, which struggle economically. Governments tend to maintain these people’s anonymity, who do not want to be exposed. Money is at the basis of everything”, Jody McPhillips, from OCCRP, acknowledged, underlining that this is a billion euros’ business for Member States.