Since 2008, 254 millionaires from India have taken advantage of the Golden Visa to settle down in the UK through large investments, according to a new report released by an anti-corruption charity based in the UK. Between 2008 and 2020, Indians made up 254 of Tier 1 (Investor) Visas, ranking as the seventh nationality of super-rich individuals. India ranked 420 ahead of China on the chart, followed by Russia (2526), Hong Kong (692), the United States (685), Pakistan (283) and Kazakhstan (278). With 223 visas granted, Saudi Arabia leads the list of top 10 countries to have been granted residency rights in the UK, with approximately half of the total now under review.
Wealthy individuals can invest in UK-registered companies to buy residency rights in the UK. Those who invest two million pounds are entitled to live in the UK for three years, followed by a two-year extension, says a report entitled Red Carpet for Dirty Money. If they invest 10 million pounds, they can be fast-tracked to get indefinite leave to remain within two years, or in three years if they invest 5 million pounds. Those with indefinite leave to remain are on a steady path to becoming British citizens after one year, the report says.
Diamond merchant Nirav Modi, wanted in India on charges related to the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam and now trying to avoid extradition, is believed to be living in UK under a 2015 investment visa. In the past, super-rich individuals had an easier time acquiring residency rights in UK if they invested a minimum of 2 million pounds.
According to Spotlight on Corruption, all 6,312 golden visas issued during the blind faith period are under review by the Home Office for possible national security risks, which accounts for half of all golden visas issued. Susan Hawley, Executive Director of Spotlight on Corruption, said the UK’s golden visa regime poses a significant corruption, money laundering and national security risk. There is a serious problem with the government’s immigration policies in other areas, but there are major loopholes allowing dirty money to enter UK despite its Draconian moves in other areas. According to her, the government should commission a review of the benefits the regime provides for the UK.
The charity, which has a mandate to fight corruption in the UK and everywhere the UK has influence, has called on the government to publish the results of its review of visas issued in that category from 2008 to 2015. This report provides detailed statistics on the actions taken in specific cases, such as referrals to law enforcement, revocation of visas and denial of citizenship applications. Despite recent reforms, the golden visa regime continues to pose a significant ‘national security, corruption and money laundering’ risk to the UK.
This report warns of ‘glaring loopholes’, including how applicants using ‘gifted’ funds for gold visa applications do not face any due diligence, and how the Home Office remains over-reliant on financial institutions for due diligence on wealth invested.
Earlier this year, the Department for Home Affairs announced that it had reformed the Tier 1 visa route to crack down on filthy money. Further reforms may be made if necessary, it added. Banks will be required to perform extra due diligence checks before opening accounts, and applicants will be required to provide evidence of their funds’ origin. ‘Toward preventing corruption in this process, we are reviewing all Tier 1 investor visas issued before the reforms, and we will report our findings in due course’, the statement said.