‘Golden Visas’ and revelations on UKVI laxity & Hostile Environment double standards

Purposely inhumane, and particularly so against targeted population groups, it is not surprising that the Home Office and by extension Whitehall preside over a de-facto corrupt regime where so-called ‘golden visas’ are concerned – a passport commonly to de-facto assist international criminals and the corrupt, as much as genuine applicants, to gain British passports.  The Sunday Times article below lifts the lid on this Hostile Environment scandal.

Golden visas: Home Office in cash-for-passports scandal: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/golden-visa-scandal-home-office-in-cash-for-passports-probe-x8ll9xps2     July 21 2019, 12:01am, The Sunday Times

Russian and Chinese millionaires can buy access to British passports by exploiting a flawed Home Office scheme fast-tracking the super-rich, an investigation has revealed.

Legal and financial advisers were filmed boasting about their role in securing scores of “golden visas” for millionaire foreign clients and offering to omit sensitive details from immigration officials, such as links to the inner circle of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and to the Chinese military.

The advisers told an undercover reporter they had helped secure golden visas for a member of the Gadaffi family, the son of a corrupt Thai government minister, an Egyptian charged with corruption, an Eritrean with possible links to military deals in Angola and millionaires from Iran and Iraq whose businesses were affected by sanctions. One said it was “easy-peasy” to get around Home Office anti- corruption checks, alleging that the officials who did the vetting were untrained school leavers who used Google searches. Some boasted of near-perfect records in helping clients through the process.

Secret filming by The Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches exposed how the Home Office conducts scant checks on wealthy foreigners who stump up £2m to obtain citizenship through the UK’s “golden visa” scheme.

The revelations will place pressure on Sajid Javid, the home secretary, to scrap or clean up the golden visa regime. His department briefly suspended the scheme in December amid concern that it was being abused by organised crime gangs and money launderers, but days later it did a U-turn. Sources say the Treasury demanded that it was reinstated.

Yesterday Dame Margaret Hodge MP, the former chairwoman of the public accounts select committee, called for the scheme to be immediately suspended pending a parliamentary inquiry and an audit of all past applicants. She said: “It is scandalous how the hostile environment is treating asylum seekers in my constituency in a terrible way yet we are welcoming with open arms dirty money into Britain. We will never sustain economic prosperity on the back of dirty money.”

The scheme — which requires a minimum £2m investment in a UK company — has admitted more than 11,000 people since it was set up in 2008. Officially called the tier 1 investor visa, the scheme gives wealthy foreigners the right to live in the UK and the chance to apply later for full citizenship and a passport.

Unlike other nations, the UK does not ask visa applicants to pay any of the £2m sum to the government or stipulate that the money should create British jobs or boost areas of deprivation. It does not stop investors taking the money back offshore after they have secured the right to live permanently in Britain.

“Once you get indefinite leave to remain,” Alex Wade of visa experts Knightsbridge Wealth in London told our reporter, “at that stage you can move it, and we would always tell you, even if you want to keep it with us, you move it offshore, because you then don’t pay tax on it.”

This newspaper and Channel 4 approached six firms with expertise in investor visas during a three-month investigation. Our reporter posed as a Hong Kong-based executive tasked with securing residency in the UK for members of his family in Russia and China. He told the firms one relative had been moving money offshore for Putin’s inner circle and the other ran a technology company providing parts for weapons used by China’s People’s Liberation Army.

None of the firms seemed concerned that the executive was proposing to hide the family backgrounds from the Home Office, and he was advised there was no need to divulge the full story. This appeared to contravene Home Office rules, which require visa applicants to flag up anything that calls their good character into question and to declare any activities on behalf of a foreign government that might harm Britain’s interests or national security. Some of the advisers claimed the government had in effect passed on to banks and investment firms the responsibility for checking the visa applicants.

This weekend all the firms said that these were just initial meetings and all the firms would have carried out due diligence checks, as required by their regulators, before deciding whether to proceed.

Westkin Associates said its internal procedures encouraged employees to flag up any ethical concerns about a visa applicant and it abided with Home Office guidance.

Knightsbridge said it “takes its responsibilities extremely seriously.” It said the meetings were “early” and they had robust procedures which would have done thorough checks on the applicant before proceeding. A HomeOffice spokesperson said its “substantially” reformed system had “some of the most rigorous checks in place for investor visas across the world”.

The Home Office said its “substantially” reformed system had “some of the most vigorous checks in place for investor visas in the world”.

Source: Channel 4 News.   £2 Million Passport: Welcome To Britain. Channel 4 Dispatches