The Guardian newspaper revealed in an investigative investigation that the Pacific country of Vanuatu is selling its passport to businessmen, political officials and wanted persons, noting that about 2,000 people have bought “golden passports”.
Among those granted citizenship are a former Libyan prime minister, a Syrian businessman whose name has been placed on the US sanctions list, a suspected North Korean politician, an Italian businessman accused of blackmailing the Vatican, a former member of the notorious Australian motorcycle gang, and a South African brotherhood. Accused of issues related to digital currencies worth $ 3.6 billion, according to Russia Today.
The golden passport system allows foreigners to buy citizenship for $130,000, a process that usually takes just over a month, without ever setting foot in the country.
The Golden Passport Program is also marketed by some agencies as the fastest, cheapest, and most accessible in the world and gives unrestricted and visa-free access to 130 countries including the UK and EU countries. Vanuatu is also considered a tax haven and does not levy income tax or a corporate or wealth tax.
In response to inquiries about the list of names of naturalized persons, Floyd Mera, director of the Financial Intelligence Unit in Vanuatu, said, “I have read the list, and most of the names are associated with the allegations and pending investigations, and if there are substantive convictions against any of these names, their citizenship may be withdrawn.”
He added, “From now on, the Financial Intelligence Unit will conduct audits on the names on the list. If any of these people have criminal convictions, the unit will immediately inform the Citizenship Office of the updated information.”
After Chinese, the most common nationalities for recipients were Nigerian, Russian, Lebanese, Iranian, Libyan, Syrian, and Afghani. Among the applicants were 20 people from the United States, six Australians, and some Europeans.
It is noteworthy that the Vanuatu government’s passport program generated more than $116 million last year, and Vanuatu issued nearly 2,200 passports in 2020, more than half (about 1,200) of which were for Chinese nationals.