Portugal’s controversial programme of issuing ‘Golden Visas’ to high net-worth individuals has come in for a new pasting, this time from the civic association Transparency and Integrity (TI).
Says the association spokesman Paulo Batalha, visas are being issued without proper controls and to countries known for embedded corruption and money-laundering.
“Portugal is being seen as the kind of rubbish bin for golden visas because it has been so relaxed in their attribution”, he told reporters.
TI’s criticism follows months in which the association tried in vain to get data out of the Ministry of Internal Administration.
In the end, it resorted to pressure through the courts – and finally the numbers for the last eight years came through.
Says Correio da Manhã today, China, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, Russia, the Lebanon, Vietnam, the United States, India and Pakistan are the top 10 countries for nationals receiving golden visas – the vast majority of them having gone to Chinese citizens (4,441).
But what the figures also show is a form of ‘500,000 euro sale of entry stamps’, says Batalha.
The authorities limit themselves to “making sure forms are properly filled, asking for details of any criminal history and consulting the Schengen Space information system” to see if candidates names are flagged.
They do not appear to look into applications from tax havens, or other destinations known for ‘dodgy financial dealing’.
Only a handful of visas have been issued to citizens from Caribbean islands like St Kitts and Nevis, but as far as Batalha is concerned, the numbers “suggest that some individuals could be collecting passports to travel freely, not just in blacklisted tax havens but in Europe’s Schengen Space”.
Batalha’s is just the latest voice against a regime that has come increasingly under fire.
Last year, a special European Parliamentary Committee, whose vice-chair at the time was Portugal’s former Socialist MEP Ana Gomes, called for an end to the regime ‘as soon as possible’.
Gomes, a strident voice against corruption, has long defended that golden visas are a form of “prostitution of the Schengen system” that has given “kleptocrats, criminals and money launderers” a fast track into Europe.