Transparency International Portugal (TI Portugal) is calling on the Ministry of Home Affairs of Portugal to immediately release information on its controversial residency-by-investment, the so-called ‘Golden Visa’ programme. Acknowledging the high public interest, this week, for the third time in the past year, the Portuguese watchdog submitted a formal request for the information.
Today, January 10, the Parliament of Portugal will discuss a bill proposed by the Bloco de Esquerda party which, if adopted, would terminate the Golden Visa scheme. Unfortunately, parliamentarians as well as the public are largely in the dark about the programme. The vote takes place on 11 January.
“The Government has committed to review the Golden Visa programme but has not yet begun to do so. What is more, they have not released the information crucial to assess the risks and merits of the scheme,” said TI Portugal’s President João Paulo Batalha. “Today, Portuguese parliamentarians will be voting on the future of the Golden Visa scheme blindly because the government has failed to provide key information on the programme,” he argued.
The organisation has asked, among other things, 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 Golden Visas applicants.
The watchdog has previously warned about the risks of corruption and money laundering associated with Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme. 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.
European Getaway, Inside the Murky World of Golden Visas, a 2018 report by Transparency International and Global Witness found that access to the European Union (EU) is the main selling point of Golden Visa programmes operated by EU Member States. Portugal and a dozen of other EU countries that offer such schemes expose the entire Union to multiple corruption risks, the report argued.
In response to a question during a parliamentary debate on the same date as the release of the critical report, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa stated that his government would review the programme.
This is not the first time TI Portugal has requested the government to shed light on the controversial Golden Visa programme, this week’s request is the third since April 2018. The government has yet to respond.
TI Portugal will continue to insist that the government releases this important data and details on the programme. 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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