EUROPE: Greece’s Golden Visa Scheme Risks Shutdown Due to COVID-19.

As published on schengenvisainfo.com, Monday 5 October, 2020.

Greece has issued only 368 Golden Visas for internationals since the beginning of this year, data by the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy shows.

According to the ministry’s statement, the decrease in the number of Golden Visas, which scheme is widely criticized for being a doorway for money laundering and criminal activities in the EU, has been caused mainly by the current Coronavirus situation, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

During this year only 368 persons have received citizenship by investment in Greece, while the total number of those who have benefited from this scheme since its launch is 7,903. In 2019 there have been sold a total of 3,428 visas from persons who invested at least 250,000 ($291,377) euros in the country.

Last year international capital that flowed into Greece for the acquisition of real estate assets reached €1.45 billion, according to the figures published by the Bank of Greece.

Now, a small number of persons are interested in acquiring Greek citizenship through the citizenship by investment scheme, and the reasons are many, including financial difficulties, and travel restrictions imposed worldwide.

In June, authorities in Greece announced that they are planning to relaunch the Golden-Visa Scheme. The country became one of the first European countries to announce plans to take such a step, after being among the first ones to put this program to an end due to the current Coronavirus pandemic situation.

According to authorities in Greece, the government intends to relaunch the program with new changes which have been made in the pre-pandemic situation, after considering that it has managed the Coronavirus situation successfully.

However, Greece is not the only country which has marked a decrease in the number of funds brought to the country through citizenship by investment. Last month Portugal announced that it marked a 43 per cent decrease in July, year on year, as well as a 37 per cent decrease compared to June, in the country’s Golden Visa program. The statistics were conducted by the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF).

After being accused by transparency organizations for facilitating money laundering and other illegal activities through the scheme, EU countries running the Golden Visa Scheme were urged to put this program to an end. Among other, European Parliament members joined the call.

In addition, the European Union Commission also criticized Cyprus, Bulgaria and Malta for using the pandemic situation to run their Golden Visa Schemes. Cyprus may even face legal action from the European Union amid the claims that it sold citizenship by investment to persons included in money laundering, corruption affairs and other criminal activities while being aware of it.

The warning came after a report published by Al Jazeera, known as the “Cyprus Papers” which claimed that a total of 1,400 internationals together with their family members bought Cyprus citizenship through the citizenship by investment scheme, from 2017 to 2019.