‘Golden visa’ holders in UK ‘potentially at high risk’ of having links to corruption or serious organized crime | Political News


A “small” number of wealthy investors who came to the UK via the so-called “golden visa” route potentially have links to corruption or serious organized crime, the home secretary has revealed.

The Tier 1 (investor) scheme was launched in 2008, allowing people from outside the EU to gain residency if they invested upwards of £2m in the British economy.

But there were fears the system was open to abuse and a review was launched into over 6,000 cases back in 2018, with the entire scheme eventually being scrapped in 2022 as part of a “renewed crackdown on illicit finance and fraud” following the outbreak of war in Ukraine.

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Suella Braverman has now issued a summary of the findings of the review, which looked at 6,312 migrants and adult dependents who came to the UK between the launch of the route and the introduction of reforms in 2015 – where applicants had to open a regulated UK bank account before applying for a visa.

In a written statement to parliament, the home secretary said the probe “identified a small minority of individuals connected to the Tier 1 (investor) visa route that were potentially at high risk of having obtained wealth through corruption or other illicit financial activity, and/ or being engaged in serious and organized crime”.

She stressed that “the work carried out only implies that a particular individual potentially poses a risk of having connections to criminality – it does not mean guilt has been proven”.

But she said UK law enforcement had access to all the data and were “taking action as appropriate under their operational remittances”.

‘Immigration system not well-equipped to respond’

Ms Braverman also said the Home Office was reviewing the data and was considering “a range of actions”.

She added: “Whilst unable to comment specifically due to operational sensitivity of work, as an example of the range of actions we are taking, I can say that we have already sanctioned 10 oligarchs who had previously used this route as part of our extensive response to Russian aggression in the Ukraine.”

Other review findings showed the route “attracted a disproportionate number of applicants from the countries identified in the UK’s National Risk Assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing”, and the particular risk around financial crime “meant that the immigration system was not as well-equipped to respond”, as it needed specialists in the field to work on the cases.

Ms Braverman said she was “determined this government will ensure such mistakes are not repeated”, pointing to a new Combatting Kleptocracy Cell in the National Crime Agency and “robust legislation to prevent corrupt elites abusing our open economy”.

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Braverman published a summary of the review’s findings in a written statement, but opposition MPs want the report released in full

“The government is clear that any future visa route to facilitate investment-based migration must not offer entry solely on the basis of the applicant’s personal wealth,” she added.

“We are continuing to consider options to bring forward alternative provisions to support investment-based migration benefiting the UK economy on a fundamentally different model within the Innovator visa programme, placing more emphasis on the applicant’s track record as an investor in innovative business and an assessment of their plans to actively engage in such activity in the UK.

“We will ensure any new supplies are brought forward carefully.”

Labor called Ms Braverman’s statement “a totally inadequate response to very serious corruption and criminality concerns”.

‘Stinks of a cover-up’

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Ministers have finally recognized and admitted that ten of those sanctioned following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had come to the UK on golden visas.

“But they have provided no answers to the most basic questions Labor raised a year ago, including how many Golden Visas have been revoked, how many recipients have been granted citizenship, and what is the security threat arising from serious and organized criminals who used the route to enter the UK.

“It is disgraceful for the Home Secretary to dodge scrutiny in this way. She should come to parliament at the earliest opportunity, and must publish a far more detailed report setting out the answers to the national security questions arising from this.”

The Liberal Democrats also said the review “stinks of a cover-up” and echoed the call for the findings to be immediately published in full.

One of the party’s MPs, Layla Moran, added: “For years, the Conservative government promised they’d publish the golden visas review so we can understand just how Putin’s cronies have exploited this route into our country.

“After a five-year wait, they haven’t even published the review – just a short statement about the review. It’s farcical.

“We need to know to what extent the government let Kremlin-linked oligarchs treat this country as their playground. If the Conservatives have nothing to hide, then they will have nothing to fear.”

malek

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