Money laundering: UK fails to suspend golden visa scheme
14 Dec 2018

The United Kingdom has withdrawn from its pledge to suspend a controversial immigration scheme which issues rich individuals with visas amid concerns that the source their wealth is corrupt cash.

In recent weeks, Home Office announced that, as part of a crackdown on financial crime, its Tier 1 Investor programme, which issues ‘golden visas,’ would be suspended at midnight on Friday 7 December, with immigration minister Caroline Noakes, saying: “I have been clear that we will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system,” according to media reports.

However, by Tuesday Home Office backtracked on this, saying in a statement “The Tier 1 (Investor) visa is not currently suspended, however we remain committed to reforming the route. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

Naomi Hirst, Senior Anti-Corruption Campaigner at Global Witness said: “This ludicrous u-turn is keeping Britain’s doors open to the super-rich, who can continue to buy residency for £2 million, which they get back with interest.

“The corruption risks inherent in these schemes was serious enough for Caroline Nokes to suspend them last week, so what’s changed? For a government so keen on taking back control of its borders, this is not just an embarrassment, it’s shameful.“

The development was also criticised by Transparency International UK’s Rachel Davies Teka, who said: “We are concerned to hear conflicting messages on government action on this important issue over the past week.”

“We call on the Government to urgently clarify its policy towards the Tier 1 Visa Scheme, as well as set a timetable for when and how the promised review of previous recipients will be carried out. Any individuals found by this review to have brought suspicious money into the UK should be subject to police investigation into the provenance of all their UK assets.”

Transparency International says it identified that in 2015 over 3,000 individuals, and their families, had been granted British “golden” visas with little to no checks done on the origin of the money invested to secure the visa – during a “blind faith period”.

The vast majority of these being individuals from Russia and China – high corruption risk states.

“The Government has publicly committed to reviewing the investments of all those who were granted such visas during the blind faith period,” the NGO said.

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