Vanuatu resumed selling passports in 2017. The lawsuit, but according to the revelations of the British newspaper The Guardian, has benefited businessmen who disagree with the law and disgraced political leaders.
Just enter “passport” and “Vanuatu” in any search engine to find a site in a few clicks that offers to get in two months. “The fastest and easiest second passport”duly certified by the seal of the Vanuatu authorities and giving “Visa-free access to 130 countries, including the European Union and the UK”, indicates the site.
The sale of passports at $ 130,000 (13.2 million francs) last year brought Vanuatu $ 132 million (13.5 billion francs), or 42% of the country’s total budget. And the sale of passports has been growing steadily since 2017 (+ 25% from 2019 to 2020, + 20% from 2018 to 2019).
The practice of “investment passports” is not illegal, it is practiced by many countries that want to encourage the placement of investors on their territory. France, for its part, offers a residence permit called the “Passport of Talent” for owners of private equity projects.
But in Vanuatu, the practice has become quasi-industrial – 2,000 investment passports were issued last year – and above all, the country doesn’t seem to be looking back at some of the beneficiaries, according to the Guardian’s revelations.
Citizenship for Sale: Fugitives, Politicians and Disgraced Businessmen Buy Vanuatu Passports https://t.co/NdcpmCBwOo
– Guardian of Australia (@GuardianAus) Jul 15, 2021
The British newspaper had access to official documents from the Vanuatu government detailing the names and nationalities of each person who received such a passport last year.
Personalities with a Troubling Past
Of the 2,200 issued passports, 1,200 were issued to Chinese citizens. It is not unusual for China to invest heavily in the archipelago. Then comes the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia (excluding China) and finally Australia.
An Italian accused of extortion from the Vatican, an Australian ex-gang member, and two South African brothers who robbed a multi-billion dollar cryptocurrency received a passport.
And among these citizens, people are far from posting blank records officially required by the Vanuatu authorities. Last year, a Syrian under US sanctions against his economic interests, an Italian accused of extortion from the Vatican, an Australian with a former gang member and two South African brothers who robbed a multi-billion dollar cryptocurrency received a passport.
The archipelago does not seem to have much interest in the political background of some of the challengers. In the list provided by the Vanuatu authorities, The keeper thus, a man was found whom the newspaper suspects of being a high-ranking North Korean official, or a man who was identified as the governor of Damascus under the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Algerian general Gali Belkesir, on the run since 2019 and his prominence after the fall of Abdelaziz Bouteflik, also easily bought his Vanuatu passport.
Ease, which is all the more worrisome for international experts, since nothing prevents the holders of these passports from subsequently changing their name. This means, in fact, to get a new personality.
Nothing prevents the holders of these passports from subsequently continuing to change their name. This means, in fact, to get a new personality.
Contacted The keeper, Vanuatu authorities indicated that the charges against certain beneficiaries were not known at the time their passports were issued. Floyd Mera, director of the economic intelligence department of Vanuatu, assured that the list provided The keeper will be examined, and that if serious facts are noted, reports will be made that could lead to revocation. A measure already taken in 2014 against several persons with dual citizenship accused of bribing the commission, which was then in charge of granting citizenship.