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Confidential Memo Reveals Risks of Money Laundering & Tax Evasion in Ireland’s Golden Visa Scheme

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90 per cent of applicants for Ireland’s Golden Visa program were from China and lacked any identifiable link to Ireland. They were recruited through agents who specialized in finding applicants for the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), a recent examination of these schemes has found.

A confidential memo from the Irish Department of Justice revealed that the IIP had an increased risk of being exploited by those involved in money laundering and tax evasion, SchengenVisaInfo reports.

According to a report from the Irish Independent, senior officials warned that issuing a visa through the Golden Visa Program could be seen as state confirmation of an “individual’s bona fides” or an endorsement of any investment made in this country.

The memo, kept private for a while by the Department of Justice, noted that Ireland could face “an underlying and strategic reputation risk” if it continued the scheme.

Ireland’s IIP program was abolished in February 2023, as confirmed back then by former Minister of Justice, Simon Harris.

The Minister said that the scheme which was under review for quite a period was terminated after being informed by reports from international bodies and external reviews.

Irregular Affairs Lead to the Termination of the Scheme

The memo noted that the program led the focus to giving a significant amount of money to charities, sports clubs and academic institutions instead of creating jobs. The majority of the applicants were mainly from China.

These individuals have, in almost all cases, no identifiable link to the State other than through the scheme. Their knowledge of the scheme arises from the activities of intermediary agents who advertise the scheme [to Chinese people].

the memo reads

In addition, the memo also revealed how the program was raising concerns at international level regarding its involvement in irregular concerns.

These programmes remain attractive as a means of accessing the issuing country — to place, access and use illicitly obtained wealth and assets such as property — and to ensure [the applicant’s] family can access high-value services such as private schooling, as well as offer a potential path to settlement and citizenship.

the memo reads

Ireland introduced the IIP program, equal to the Golden Visa scheme, in 2012. The scheme granted residency in this territory to internationals in exchange for financial investments, thus bringing significant contribution to the economic sector. From its introduction until its abolishment the program brought to Ireland €1.17 billion.

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