Russian and Chinese millionaires, a member of Gadaffi’s family, and corrupt foreign politicians have secured entry into the UK by exploiting the Home Office’s flawed scheme fast-tracking the super rich, it was revealed today.
Secret recording showed legal and financial advisers boasting about being able to secure scores of ‘golden visas’ for their clients, and offering to leave out sensitive details including links to Putin’s cronies and the Chinese military.
One crowed at being able to evade Home Office checks ‘easy-peasy’, which he alleged were carried out by untrained school leavers who used Google searches.
A relative of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi (seen at the UN in 2009) has taken advantage of the Home Office’s golden visa scheme
The advisers told an undercover Sunday Times reporter of securing visas for figures including a relative of Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan dictator, an Egyptian charged with corruption, and Iranian and Iraqi businessmen hit by sanctions.
Under its ‘tier-one’ visa scheme, the Home Office gives wealthy foreigners the right to live in the UK if they invest £million in a British company, with the chance of later gaining full citizenship and a passport.
The Home Office briefly suspended the scheme in December over fears it was being used by organised criminals, but it was reintroduced days later, reportedly after pressure from The Treasury.
Yesterday, Dame Margaret Hodge MP, who used to chair the public accounts select committee, called on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to suspend it again.
The revelations have led to calls for Home Secretary Sajid Javid (seen on Thursday) to suspend the scheme
‘It is scandalous how the hostile environment is treating asylum seekers in my constituency in a terrible way yet we are welcoming with open arms dirty money into Britain.
‘We will never sustain economic prosperity on the back of dirty money.’
A reporter working for The Sunday Times and Channel 4 consulted six firms with expertise in investor visas, posing as a Hong Kong businessman looking to secure UK residency for family members in Russia and China.
None were concerned that the executive wanted to hide his family background from the Home Office, although they later said the meetings were only advisory and they would carry out due diligence at a later date.
More than 11,000 people have used the investor visa scheme since it was introduced in 2008.
If they keep their £2million invested in British companies for five years, they receive indefinite leave to remain and can ask for a UK passport a year later.
None of the money is paid to the government and investors could take their money offshore after receiving full citizenship.
The Home Office said: “The UK has some of the most rigorous checks in place for investor visas across the world.
‘Recent reforms, including the forthcoming wealth audit requirement, are substantial and will further cement our position as a world leader in the fight against financial crime and corruption.”
£16m Harrods shopper, a ‘money launderer, and a Tory donor charged with funding terror: People who already have a golden visa
£16million Harrods shopper
Zamira Hajiyeva, 55, used 35 credit cards issued by her husband’s bank to splash out £1.6 million on shopping every year for a decade at Britain’s most extravagant department store, located just a stone’s-throw from her lavish London home.
Hajiyeva, 55, settled in the UK on a golden visa in 2010, five years before her husband was arrested in his native Azerbaijan accused of embezzling more than £100m. He is now serving a 15-year jail sentence in the country for fraud and embezzlement.
The National Crime Agency served her with an unexplained wealth order last year, which she is currently contesting.
Tory donor facing jail for ‘funding terror’
Mohammed Shahid Uddin Khan, 55, is a former colonel in the Bangladeshi army, who gained UK residency in 2009.
He has been charged in his homeland with funding terrorist groups, illegal arms dealing and fraud.
Khan strongly denies wrongdoing, and claims he has been set up by enemies in the government.
The ‘money launderer’
Alexander Perepilichnyy, 44, was granted a visa even though Interpol said he was suspected of offences including money laundering and fraud.
The multi-millionaire businessman collapsed and died while jogging near his home in Weybridge, Surrey, on November 10 2012 after spending the night with his mistress in Paris.
Evidence he had been helping exposed corruption by Russian mafias led to claims he may have been assassinated by poisoning, but a coroner ruled he had died of natural causes.