62 Pakistanis received $2.5 million UK Golden Visas – Suspended Today to tackle money laundering

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By Dr Shahid Qureshi: –

More than 62 Pakistanis have migrated to UK spending millions of pounds and is number 4 in top 10 leaving India behind at number 5. According to the Home Office figures more than 1,126 Chinese, 706 Russians, 150 United States, Pakistan 62, India 60, Kazakhstan 59, Egypt 58, Canada 54, Australia 52, and Iran 59.

Transparency International reported that till 2015 “The group says £3.15 billion had entered Britain through the visa scheme since its launch.

Over 62 Pakistani millionaires (Billionaires) have migrated to United Kingdom using the $2.5 million ‘Golden Visa’ or Tier1 scheme and raised suspicions of money laundering. Around 1,000 applications were made for such visas in 2017.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said today: “I have been clear that we will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system.”  Britain will suspend its top tier investor visas, which require 2 million pounds ($2.55 million) in investment, as part of a drive to crack down on organised crime and money laundering.

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The influx of super-rich has brought tens of billions of pounds in investment and helped London preserve its position as one of the world’s top two global financial capitals, though the government has been concerned by the provenance of some of the wealth.

“That is why I am bringing forward these new measures which will make sure that only genuine investors, who intend to support UK businesses, can benefit from our immigration system,” Nokes said.

The tier 1 investor visas, which offered non-European Union residents over three years entry in return for 2 million pounds in investment in United Kingdom bonds, share capital or loan capital in UK companies, will be suspended from midnight on December 7.

After the changes, applicants seeking to invest in the United Kingdom will have to provide comprehensive audits of all their financial and business interests, the interior ministry said. The audits will have to be carried out by UK registered auditing firms.

Those seeking such visas will have to prove they have control of the investment needed. Such investors will not be able to simply buy government bonds.

Britain’s National Crime Agency, which tackles serious and organised crime, said in September it was stepping up efforts to tackle dirty money funnelled into or through the United Kingdom by “corrupt elites”.

It said it planned to extend the use of Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs), one means by which the assets of corrupt “politically exposed persons” or those with links to serious crime can be seized.

In October 2018, it was revealed that the first target of a UWO was the wife of a jailed Azeri banker from whom the authorities seized property worth about 22 million pounds ($28 million).”

According to Hindustan Times: “As many as 60 Indian millionaires have migrated to Britain since 2008 spending millions of pounds, putting India among the top 10 countries whose citizens have used a “golden visa” scheme and sparking suspicion of money laundering.”

Anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International cautioned against the danger of foreign graft money entering Britain through the investors category of the Tier I visa, which targets “high networth individuals” who bring major investments in lieu of fast-track permanent residency in the UK.

“Our overall assessment is that this visa scheme, as it currently operates, presents a major money laundering risk for the proceeds of corruption entering the UK,” it said in a report released this week.

Britain continues to be an attractive destination and a safe haven for global millionaires because of a stable and liquid economy, political stability and minimal government interference in private individual assets.

The visa scheme has been mainly used by Chinese and Russian millionaires, but Home Office statistics reveal 60 Indians had been granted the visa till 2015.

“There are strong prima facie grounds for concern that the … visa programme has been used as a tool to launder the proceeds of corruption, specifically large amount of wealth stolen from China and Russia,” the report says.

The risk of money laundering remained in the absence of “effective, upfront and transparent checks on Tier 1 visa applicants by UK authorities”, says the report titled Gold Rush: Investment Visas and Corrupt Capital Flows into the UK.

The minimum investment required under the category was £1 million until November 2014, but subsequently another million was added February 2015.

In the current circumstances Pakistan need to document its economy as well as makes its case via UN SARs (Stolen Asset Recovery) Program as well as use existing legislations of the country. In financial fraud cases it is the responsibility of the individual and companies to prove their income is legitimate and that make case easier and faster.

(Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior analyst with BBC and chief editor of The London Post. He writes on security, terrorism and foreign policy. He also appears as analyst on Al-Jazeera, Press TV, MBC, Kazak TV (Kazakhstan), LBC Radio London. He was also international election observer for Kazakhstan 2015 and 2016 and Pakistan 2002. He has written a famous book “War on Terror and Siege of Pakistan” published in 2009. He wrote his MA thesis on ‘Political Thought of Imam Khomeini’ and visited Tehran University. He is PhD in ‘Political Psychology’ also studied Law at a British University. He also speaks at Cambridge University and visiting professor in Hebe University in China)

Views expressed are not of The SRG