Pakistan is among top 10 countries whose nationals have benefited from the “golden visa” scheme offered by the United Kingdom (UK), amid concerns of money laundering, says a research report by Transparency International.
According to global anti-corruption watchdog, 62 Pakistani nationals invested at least £2million (Rs301 million) each in the UK to get the UK’s Tier-1 Investors Visa also dubbed as golden visa between 2008 to 2015.
Responding to a query by The News, a top official of the UK chapter of Transparency International, said, “The British government does not reveal the names of the investors but Pakistan is ranked fourth in the list of top 10 nationalities awarded Tier-1 visas.”
In return for £2m of qualifying investments, a foreign investor can receive a UK golden visa and, after five years, permanent residency in the UK. According to the report around £3.15 billion has entered the UK through Tier-1 (Investor) visa scheme since 2008.
“Our current assessment is that the visa scheme, as it currently operates, presents a major money laundering risk for the proceeds of corruption entering the UK,” the watchdog said in its recent report titled “Gold rush: Investment visas and corrupt capital flows into the UK”.
The report highlights how the UK’s Tier-1 Investor scheme can be vulnerable as a tool to launder the proceeds of corruption from around the world. “Our analysis shows that, out of 3,048 golden visas granted by the UK since the scheme began in 2008, 60% have been awarded to Chinese and Russian nationals,” says the report. China has topped the list with 1126 Tier-1 visas while Russia is second with 706 applicants. India is ranked fifth in the report with 60 successful applicants of UK’s investor visas.
The report says the Tier-1 Investor scheme is open to abuse through the lack of effective, up-front and transparent checks on Tier-1 Investor visa applicants by the UK authorities.
“According to the government’s own assessment, the UK’s anti-money laundering system has significant weaknesses in its supervisory structure and in terms of the level of compliance and reporting standards across relevant private sectors,” it adds.
The report says 97% of golden visa investors came to the UK during the “blind faith” period of check by the visa authorities, when the scheme was highly vulnerable to abuse by the corrupt.
“The laundering of proceeds of overseas corruption into or through the UK fuels political instability in key partner countries” the report quoted UK Government’s National Risk Assessment on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.
The Transparency recommended that the UK government should improve mechanisms for international cooperation to identify and recover corrupt assets and establish greater integrity and transparency in the Tier-1 Investor visa scheme to help prevent corrupt wealth from entering the UK through the scheme.