UK shutting down ‘golden visa’ program for wealthy Russians
The British authorities plan to suspend the "golden visa" program, which opened the country’s doors to wealthy individuals, including from Russia.
The program, which requires investing at least 2 million pounds in the British economy, will be closed within a few weeks, the Financial Times reported, citing sources in the government.
The British Cabinet of Ministers is under pressure from the parliament, which in 2020 warned that "golden visas" had become the object of abuse by wealthy immigrants from Russia, for whom Britain had become an "ideal" destination for laundering illegal money and offshore wealth.
The rules for obtaining visas were tightened in 2015, and in 2018. After the poisoning in Salisbury of ex-colonel of the GRU, Sergei Skripal, London announced the revision of more than 700 visas issued to Russians.
However, no real results have yet been achieved. The process has stalled, and the British government promises to publish the results of its investigation by April.
Those visas were a direct "invitation to launder money in the United Kingdom," said Chris Bryant, a member of the UK parliamentary committee on foreign affairs.
In the 12 months ending last September, Britain issued 798 "golden visas", of which 82 were obtained by Russians. The largest group of recipients were immigrants from China (210 visas).
London has been attracting ultra-rich Russians for decades, experiencing an explosive growth in demand for luxury real estate, which increases every time Moscow begins sabre-rattling. During the first wave of escalation around Ukraine, which took place in the spring of 2021, the number of requests for the purchase of real estate in the British capital from Russians with assets exceeding $30 million jumped 1.5 times, Knight Frank analysts estimated.
Such clients "choose apartments in the elite segment for the purpose of relocating for themselves or their children," said Marina Shalaeva, Knight Frank’s regional director for foreign real estate and private investments.
According to her, ultra-rich Russians do not try to save on buying real estate in London. These are mainly high budget purchases, starting from 2 million pounds, Shalaeva points out.