Transparency watchdog launches formal Golden Visa complaint
Following on from their third challenge to the Portuguese government to come clean over who exactly has been awarded ‘golden’ residency visas, the Portuguese branch of Transparency International has presented a formal complaint to the Commission for Access to Administrative Data (CADA).
The document is designed to force the government’s hand to make data available for public scrutiny following warnings by the European Commission that Golden Visa programmes throughout Europe are open to risks of money-laundering and tax evasion.
Susana Coroado of TI says, “The Government continues to cover Golden Visas with a blanket of silence. Beyond being illegal, it’s indefensible.”
TI wants to know how many visas have been denied or cancelled, how many jobs have been effectively created by the programme and what risk analysis or due diligence is made concerning Golden Visa applicants.
“It’s time to stop running. The Government has to put its cards on the table and comply with its legal and political obligations to show accounts on this scheme, starting with answering requests for information from civil society,” says Coroado.
In January, the EC published a report in which it considered “Golden Visas pose a threat to the security and integrity to the European Union.”
Prime Minister António Costa has told parliament that he will review the scheme that has bought over €4Bn into the country since it was launched in 2012 by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Paulo Portas.
Proponents of the scheme say it helped to kick-start Portugal’s ailing property market and helped the banking system clear thousands of seized properties resulting from mortgage defaults and speculative building off their books.
Detractors of the Golden Visa say that since it was introduced hardly any jobs have been created by entrepreneurs from non-EU countries who created or bought into businesses creating at least 10 jobs for local citizens.
On Costa’s promised review, Coroado adds, “This review cannot be done in secret. The information has to be made public, the risks have to be assessed and we have to see accounts. If not, we run the risk of simply more cosmetic changes to a regime that remains the same.”
Socialist MEP Ana Gomes, a strong opponent of the Golden Visa scheme, has said that she is quite certain that if any list were ever handed over it would show “a series of people with criminal records in their own country who haven’t been subject to any searches by anyone in Portugal.”