According to Forbes, a growing number of wealthy Americans are scrambling to obtain a new identity as a result of government schemes allowing foreigners to obtain them.
Eric Schmidt has all the trappings of a mega-rich American citizen: a superyacht, a Gulfstream jet, and a Manhattan penthouse, to name a few. One of his most recent possessions is a second passport and a new identity.
According to an announcement last month in a Cypriot newspaper, Alphabet Inc.’s former CEO sought to become a citizen of Cyprus with a new identity, which was originally reported by the website Recode.
According to the research, in previous years, Americans rarely sought to purchase so-called “golden passports.” People from nations with significantly fewer travel freedoms than the United States, including China, Pakistan, and Nigeria, have historically been drawn to such programs. “We’ve never seen anything like it,” Paddy Blewer, Henley & Partners‘ London-based citizenship and residence advising director, said. “We didn’t realize the dam had burst until the end of last year, and it’s just gotten stronger since then.”
A second passport may be obtained for as little as $290,000, with possible benefits including reduced taxes, increased investment freedom, and hassle-free travel, but with the benefit of a new identity. Citizenship-by-investment programs haven’t always been popular with Americans because one of their main draws — favorable tax regimes in adopted countries — has been of little benefit to citizens of the United States, which is one of the few countries that taxes its citizens regardless of where they live.
The present surge in public awareness in the United States predates the coronavirus outbreak. Despite this, the crisis has boosted demand as people expect to keep some freedom of movement as lockdown measures increase in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19 infections.” I want to be able to move as swiftly as possible with a new identity and not be trapped,” said Nestor Alfred, CEO of St. Lucia’s citizenship-by-investment unit.
The thought of a President Biden and a switched Senate in January, which would result in large tax hikes on the wealthy, is another reason fuelling interest. Others are getting passports out of fear of societal instability, according to Apex Capital Partners, which claims that its clientele has surged by 650 percent since the November 3 election.”We’re getting a lot of interest from Americans who are saying the same things that our Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Russian clients are saying,” Apex CEO Nuri Katz said. “They’re saying things like, ‘We’re not leaving the United States right now, but we’re worried, and we want to have something else in case it becomes an issue of how to disappear with a new identity.'”
After St. Kitts and Nevis became the first government to provide a citizenship-by-investment scheme in the early 1980s, more than a half-dozen countries currently do so. Following the commencement of their program a decade ago, Malta, for example, has raised $1 billion through June 2019. Dominica, a Caribbean island, has raised almost $350 million in five years. However, the shows have attracted their fair share of controversy. Jho Low, a fugitive Malaysian banker, was one of 96 people who lost their Cypriot citizenship last year. Demetris Syllouris, the speaker of the Cypriot House of Parliament, resigned last month after trying to help a Chinese businessman with a criminal record obtain citizenship.
Following the incident, Cyprus announced that the current passport-for-investment program would be phased out on November 1, 2020. Meanwhile, the European Union has issued legal ultimatums to Malta and Cyprus in relation to their citizenship-by-investment programs, alleging that they have broken EU law. Malta’s government did not reply to calls for comment after it announced preparations to amend its program prior to the E.U.’s decision. -Bloomberg
What’s next, golden passports with immunity?
A showcase event for ‘golden passports’ is held in a London ballroom. Three P.M.s attend a marketing sales event on how the wealthy can obtain citizenship for as little as $190,000.This week, three prime ministers walked to the stage of a five-star London hotel’s ballroom, promising the world’s wealthiest people “golden passports” and citizenship in their nations in exchange for hundreds of thousands of pounds in investment or flat “contributions.”
The prime minister of the Caribbean island of St Lucia, Allen Chastanet, told a group of 300 super-rich people and their advisers gathered at the Rosewood hotel for a “global citizenship conference” that his country’s economic mission was to “go after high net-worth individuals and provide them with a comfortable place to live. “He claimed that applicants will be granted St Lucian citizenship within 12 months in exchange for a $300,000 (£218,000) “payment to the national economic fund.” It comes with a “golden passport” that allows visa-free travel to 145 countries, including the United Kingdom, the Schengen Area of the European Union, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
The prime ministers of Albania and Montenegro, a Maltese minister, an ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda, and officials from Cyprus were also selling citizenships during the conference.”The citizenship plans present various problems,” Vra Jourová, the incoming European Commission vice-president, stated. Citizenship confers all of the rights of EU citizens and permits them to move freely throughout the union, posing a severe security risk. The European Union must not become a safe refuge for criminals, corrupt officials, and dirty money.
“While we cannot restrict these programs at the European Union level owing to a lack of competence, we do want more transparency in how nationality is awarded and better cooperation among member states.” In the European Union, there should be no weak link where people may shop around for the most lenient system.”She has called passport sales “dangerous,” “difficult,” and “unfair,” adding, “Having a lot of money shouldn’t give you a free pass to benefit from E.U. citizenship… When a dangerous individual is granted citizenship in one country, he is granted citizenship throughout Europe. Perhaps we should all renegotiate the entire system.”
Former CIA Director David Petraeus delivered the keynote lecture during the conference. Nils Blythe, a former BBC business correspondent and former head of communications at the Bank of England, hosted the event.
Henley & Partners
Henley & Partners, a London-based organization that operates as a matchmaker between the super-rich and governments selling their citizenships, arranged the three-day event, which cost £1,500 per ticket. Henley has made tens of millions of dollars on the citizenship of sale commissions. Henley is not accused of any crime, and the trade is legal. Jho Low, the fugitive Malaysian billionaire at the core of the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund crisis, was granted citizenship by Cyprus, which requires a minimum investment of €2 million (£1.7 million) but offers no new identity.
Low’s citizenship, as well as that of 25 other suspects to whom it has sold passports, will be revoked by the island nation, which as a member of the European Union provides its new citizens access to the rest of the EU. Since the scheme’s inception in 2013, Cyprus has made almost €6 billion by issuing roughly 4,000 passports. Malta, a European Union member, has sold citizenship to five people who were charged with criminal charges abroad and needed a new identity. Anatoly Hurgin, an Israeli citizen accused of fraud, smuggling, and money laundering by US and Israeli authorities, was looking for a new identity.
Ability Inc, Hurgin’s cyber-intelligence outfit, has been accused of assisting countries in spying on and locating targets. “With just a few million dollars and a phone number, you can snoop on whatever call or text that phone makes – no matter where you are or where the gadget is situated,” Hurgin, a former major in the Israeli Defense Force, boasted to Forbes. When Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in 2017, it sparked suspicions about Hurgin, who had gained Maltese citizenship in 2016.
While St Lucia is known for its pristine sand beaches and clear waters, Chastanet said there was no obligation for the country’s affluent new citizens to live on the island as long as they paid into the St Lucia development fund and purchased a home there.” St Lucia is modernizing and will become more competitive on a global scale,” he stated. “It’s also on the lookout for new residents who want to take advantage of everything St Lucia has to offer.”
Chastanet, the former British colony’s prime minister since 2016, said that many of the country’s new residents were from the United States. “They don’t want to hold a U.S. passport when they travel abroad,” he said. Edi Rama, the Prime Minister of Albania, and Duko Markov, the Prime Minister of Montenegro, joined Chastanet on the ballroom stage in the Rosewood hotel, where rooms can cost more than £2,000 per night. At the conference, Rama announced Albania’s citizenship-by-investment scheme, offering a “ten-year tax break.” He reminded delegates that Albania was an official applicant for EU membership, which would allow future Albanian citizens to live and work anywhere in the bloc.
“I’m aware that this type of initiative is fraught with controversy,” Rama stated. “At the same time, I am convinced that this is the correct path to take and that this is what we must do… Of doubt, there are hazards, but we cannot ignore the great potential of this program for our country and our future.”Markov stated he was offering Montenegrin citizenship to 2,000 persons in exchange for a €200,000 donation to the government coffers and a €350,000 property investment. Individuals will only be awarded citizenship after comprehensive security procedures, according to the Montenegrin government.
“There is a growing body of evidence that corrupt elites utilize ‘Golden Visas’ to secure residency and citizenship across Europe,” said Ben Cowdock, a researcher with the anti-corruption advocacy group Transparency International U.K. The economic benefits of selling a fast track to citizenship are doubtful, and it opens the door to individuals with deep resources and a hidden past. There are considerable concerns about allowing pawning of residency and citizenship to continue.”
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