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Questions over golden visas issued to investors with links to Russian government

Home Secretary Priti Patel (Aaron Chown/PA)
Home Secretary Priti Patel (Aaron Chown/PA)

Labour has called on the Home Secretary to disclose how many people granted so-called “golden visas” in the UK have close links to the Russian government.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper wrote to Priti Patel demanding answers to a series of questions about the visas for wealthy foreign investors, which the Government decided to scrap last week amid “security concerns”.

The tier 1 investor visa route was shut to all new applicants from all nationalities with “immediate effect”, the Home Office said, adding that some cases had “given rise to security concerns, including people acquiring their wealth illegitimately and being associated with wider corruption”.

In her letter, Ms Cooper said: “I am writing to express deep concern at the lack of answers on how those visas have been misused, and the continued delays on acting to tackle abuse.

“It is immensely important that any individuals linked to criminality or who pose security threats already within the country under the scheme are quickly dealt with.”

Among other questions, Ms Cooper asked: “Given the serious situation in Ukraine, how many people who have come through the golden visa scheme have close links to the Russian Government?”

Those eligible for the visa, launched in 2008, must have at least £2 million in investment funds in active and trading UK registered companies and have a UK bank account.

Successful applicants can work or study in the UK for up to five years and apply to settle in the country after making further investments.

The visas has been under review due to repeated concerns that the system could be exploited because not enough background checks are made on applicants.

The announcement comes amid concerns about Moscow’s influence in the UK as tensions continue about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In 2018, a report published by the Foreign Affairs Committee, which at that time included Ms Patel as a member, accused ministers of risking national security by “turning a blind eye” to the Russian “dirty money” flowing through the City of London.

The home of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal on Christie Miller Road in Salisbury, Wiltshire (Jonathan Brady/PA)
The home of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal on Christie Miller Road in Salisbury, Wiltshire (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Concerns over the practice of issuing golden visas were raised during this inquiry which found that despite the outcry over the Salisbury Novichok nerve agent attack, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and his allies were continuing to use London as a base for their “corrupt assets”.

There have been a total of 13,213 such visas issued since the third quarter of 2008, with 564 issued between January and September 2021, according to analysis of Home Office data by the PA news agency.

Since this period in 2008, 2,581 have been issued to Russians, with 55 in the same nine months in 2021.

The findings of a review carried out into all visas granted between 2008 and April 5 2015 are yet to be published.

Ms Cooper added: “It is incomprehensible that it has taken the Home Office so long to take any action on golden visas, especially since the Salisbury attack, and the many reports on illicit finance.

“Given that the Government has now recognised the link between golden visas and illicit finance and security threats, it is also completely wrong for there to be so little transparency about the kinds of investigations and checks that have since taken place on those who have come through the golden visa route.

“Despite the clear security risk acknowledged by the Government, this is clearly too little too late.”

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