The offer the Pacific nation of Vanuatu has had several disgraced businesspeople and individuals sought by police in countries across the world migrated in 2020 by the purchase of its 'golden passports' along with visa-free access to the EU and UK, according to a Guardian report.
The report lists out several controversial figures who acquired the citizenships of Vanuatu as a safe haven to evade the legal actions pending against them in their respective countries for the cases ranged from money heist to political incrimination and killing to extortion.
Any foreign national can purchase citizenship by paying US$130,000 under the controversial 'golden passport scheme', no foot of them required in the country to avail the passport.
The 'golden passport' scheme is being marketed as one of the fastest, and cheapest citizenship in the world with visa-free access to 130 countries including the UK and EU nations. Vanuatu is also known for its no-tax regime that the citizens are free from income, corporate or wealth tax.
By now, the scheme has been caught the eye of intelligence experts of other countries who warned that it could pave the way for backdoor access for people with transnational criminal syndicates to the EU and the UK, establishing a base in the Pacific. They also alerted that money laundering will be flourished in Vanuatu because of its taxation laws.
The scheme has reportedly earned more than US$116 million for the Vanuatu government last year but the details of individuals who have gained the passport through this scheme remain murky.
However, the Guardian's months-long investigation is claimed to have had accessed the government documents, enough to confirm the identities of dozens of the individuals who have earned citizenship in Vanuatu.
The Guardian claimed that the investigation involved searching publicly available court records, electoral rolls, death records, social media trails, and discussions with police and sources from around the world.
Of the 2,200 passports, Vanuatu issued in 2020, around 1,200 passports were reported to have been acquired by Chinese nationals, followed by Nigerian, Russian, Lebanese, Iranian, Libyan, Syrian and Afghan. Twenty people from the US, six Australians and a handful of people from Europe were also among those who applied, the Guardian report said.
The citizenship-by-investment (CBI) scheme is not illegal and many countries around the world offer CBI programs. There are many legitimate reasons for applying, including improved freedom of movement or tax-free offshore banking privileges.