“Show us Golden Visa information”: transparency watchdog challenges government

With the defeat of yet another bill designed to do away with ‘Golden’ residency visas, Transparency International Portugal has called on the government to release information on its “controversial residency-by-investment programme”.

The reasons are multiple but focused principally on what the NGO calls “the risks of corruption and money laundering associated with the scheme”.

Says a recent statement, “most notably TI Portugal has criticised a lack of transparency around the procedures followed by the authorities to ensure the legal origin of the money invested under the program – the overwhelming majority of which goes to the luxury real estate sector”.

A report entitled “European Gateway, Inside the Murky World of Golden Visas” – released by ‘mother organisation’ Transparency International and Global Witness last year – claimed “Portugal and a dozen other EU countries” are essentially ‘offering’ derivatives of a scheme that “exposes the entire European Union to multiple corruption risks”.

It is what Euro MP Ana Gomes – due to leave her mandate this year and work within a corruption fighting NGO – has been saying since the outset.

Gomes has also been tirelessly pushing the Portuguese government to release the names of people granted golden visa residency, claiming she is quite convinced that if it did so, she would find “a series of people with criminal records in their own country who haven’t been subject to any searches by anyone in Portugal”.

TI Portugal’s challenge is thus for the government to ‘bite the bullet’ and finally release key information.

Yesterday saw the Bloco de Esquerda bid – arguing that these visas are “selling citizenship for money” – fall, and TI Portugal believes the failure was not helped by the fact that, in general, “parliamentarians and the public are in the dark” about golden visas and the risks they pose to European safety.

Prime minister António Costa pledged to “analyse the risks of the programme and fix them” last year, but nothing so far appears to have changed.

TI Portugal’s challenge asks “how many visas have been denied or revoked, how many jobs have been created and what risk analysis and due diligence procedures are followed when screening applicants”?

This is the third time the NGO has “requested” the government “shed light” on the programme, and it warns that it will “continue to insist” if no answer is forthcoming.

Said the recent statement: “Should the government continue to withhold the information, the organisation is ready to trigger the administrative and judicial procedures necessary to make the government live up to its obligations”.

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