Get your fascist E.U Citizenship and be the chattel property of the E.U for £150K
EU citizenship for sale to non-Europeans in Bulgaria for as little as £150,000
Undercover Telegraph reporters posing as representatives of an Indian businessman were told that a Bulgarian passport could be legally obtained without the need to live or work in Bulgaria
By Holly Watt, Claire Newell and Ben Bryant10:07PM GMT 14 Mar 2014CommentsComments
Non-Europeans can buy European Union citizenship entitling them to live and work in Britain for as little as £150,000 under a scheme operating in Bulgaria, an investigation by The Telegraph has disclosed.
Undercover reporters posing as representatives of an Indian businessman were told that a Bulgarian passport could be legally obtained without the need to live or work in Bulgaria. So long as applicants can deposit sufficient funds, they need only visit the east European country for two days to obtain all the rights of EU citizens.
Even someone with a criminal record who has been turned down for a British passport can qualify for Bulgarian citizenship under the scheme, agents brokering the deal said.
The fast-track programme was quietly introduced just weeks before restrictions on Bulgarian nationals living and working in other EU countries were dropped earlier this year. Hundreds of foreign nationals are already believed to have applied for EU citizenship under the scheme.
The “passports for sale” will add to concern over EU immigration and the controversial decision to abandon entry restrictions to Britain from Bulgaria and Romania.
This newspaper began an investigation after being approached by a whistleblower who warned of a lack of checks and balances on the issuing of Bulgarian passports. Earlier this month, undercover journalists approached several companies based in the country asking about the possibility of buying citizenship for a rich Indian businessman.
Arton Capital, a “one stop shop for citizenship” with offices in Sofia, London and Dubai, explained that there were extensive benefits from buying a Bulgarian passport.
Milan Keremedchiev, the vice-president of the firm, said: “When you become a Bulgarian citizen, then you have all … the rights of an EU citizen, you live, study, work, settle down, uh, anywhere within the European Union.”
He added: “When the main applicant receives his Bulgarian citizenship, within three months, the children … apply and receive Bulgarian citizenship based on what I told you before, one of the parents being Bulgarian.”
He set out three different options for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship, for which his firm would charge a fee of more than £50,000. Under the first route, an individual deposits about £425,000 in a Bulgarian bank.
After six months, the individual receives “permanent residency”. After five years, they can apply for European citizenship, at which point the applicant receives their money back from the bank.
Under the second system, the applicant borrows the £425,000 from a Bulgarian bank and pays the institution around £150,000 in interest up front. As with the first option, they can apply for Bulgarian citizenship after five years. Mr Keremedchiev said that about 85 per cent of Arton Capital’s applicants opted for this route.
A third option is also available for clients. Here, applicants paying around £235,000 are fast-tracked and citizenship is received in two years. This process was brought in at the end of the last year.
Mr Keremedchiev said that a parent with several children wishing to study at a British university could save large amounts of money.
“It’s an EU passport, yes, but … since the first of January 2014, anywhere in the European Union you can settle down and live, work, study, take your kids to school. Of course, you know that the different prices in universities for EU and non-EU citizens and so on,” he said.
For example, an EU or British student studying Preclinical Medicine at Oxford University would pay £9,000 a year in tuition fees, but an overseas student would pay £16,545 a year. EU residents studying as undergraduates in Scotland are entitled to free tuition.
The passport broker explained that potential clients would barely have to visit Bulgaria to qualify for citizenship, because the firm can provide clients with a “virtual” address.
“[It] is a valid address, checked by the immigration authorities,” he said, adding: “It’s a one-day trip, you go in and gone. So if … I mean, we have good flights, good connections, you fly out the same day.”
At another firm, Tsvetkova Bebov & Partners, which is an associated firm of the accountancy company PwC in Bulgaria, one lawyer said that the clients might be able to obtain EU passports even if they had criminal records.
Veselka Petrova said: “The fact that he [the fictitious Indian businessman] was rejected there [in Britain] does not mean anything. He may get a passport here,” she said.
“I’m sure that the Bulgarian and UK authorities share information but the fact that he was turned down in the UK doesn’t mean automatically that he will be rejected in Bulgaria either … I don’t think that this automatically means that he won’t be eligible for … a permanent, for whatever residence permitting.”
In one exchange with the reporters, Ms Petrova said that if the crime had occurred some time ago, it would be possible to gain a passport: “If he’s rehabilitated it doesn’t count, it should not show on his certificate. So if he’s rehabilitated that’s not a problem.”
There is no suggestion that either of the firms acted illegally or improperly as they were simply explaining to the undercover reporters how the Bulgarian passport scheme operates.
There is a growing concern over the legal sale of citizenship by EU countries, because of the advantages of having a European passport. The EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, has raised concerns about the schemes, warning that “citizenship must not be up for sale”.
David Hanson, the shadow immigration minister, said: “I’m concerned by the growing trend for some EU member states to sell citizenship with too few security measures and ways to stop potential abuse, and I believe that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should be doing more to work with these countries and put forward our significant concern about these measures.”
The British system for high net-worth applicants is the Tier 1 scheme, where applicants must invest at least £1 million in this country. Investors have to spend at least 50 per cent of their time in the UK and make it their main home.
The application can be fast-tracked by increasing the investment to £10 million, which can bring citizenship after three years.
Both firms operating in Bulgaria said that they were offering legal and legitimate citizenship services. A spokesman for PwC said that the firms were simply explaining to the undercover reporters the Bulgarian residency criteria.
“One of the requirements for acquiring Bulgarian citizenship is that the individual has not been convicted of a wilful crime of general character, unless the individual has been rehabilitated,” a spokesman said. “Under Bulgarian law, rehabilitation as a right occurs if the individual has not been convicted of another crime during a certain period of time after the conviction.”
A spokesman for Arton Capital said that Bulgaria had some of the lengthiest and most complex procedures for immigration and that the company facilitated the process. They said that providing an address was a part of facilitating the application.
“One of the legal requirements for investors lodging their application for Bulgarian permanent residence is to show proof of residential address in Bulgaria. Since most of the applicants have never been to Bulgaria prior, Arton Capital facilitates the process of meeting the requirements of legislation by offering third party short term lease agreements,” said the spokesman.