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Gold Rush: Investment Visas and Corrupt Capital Flows into the UK

In this report “Gold rush: Investment visas and corrupt capital flows into the UK” Transparency International UK highlights how the UK’s Tier 1 Investor scheme can be vulnerable as a tool to launder the proceeds of corruption from around the world.

In particular, it is highly likely that substantial amounts of corrupt wealth stolen from China and Russia have been laundered into the UK through the UK’s ‘golden’ visa programme.

In return for £2m of qualifying investments, a foreign investor can receive a UK golden visa and, after five years, permanent residency in the UK. Our analysis shows that, out of 3,048 golden visas granted by the UK since the scheme began in 2008, 60% have been awarded to Chinese and Russian nationals.

The Tier 1 Investor scheme is open to abuse through the lack of effective, up-front and transparent checks on Tier 1 Investor visa applicants by the UK authorities. If illicit money has entered the UK economy through the golden visa scheme, there are also widespread doubts as to whether  the UK’s system of anti-money laundering checks can be relied on to ensure that suspicions of money laundering of corrupt wealth are reported and acted upon in an effective manner.  According to the Government’s own assessment, the UK’s anti-money laundering system has significant weaknesses in its supervisory structure and in terms of the level of compliance and reporting standards across relevant private sectors.

To help prevent corrupt wealth from entering the UK through the golden visa scheme, we recommend that the UK Government:

  • Establish greater integrity and transparency in the Tier 1 Investor visa scheme
  • Improve mechanisms for international cooperation to identify and recover corrupt assets
  • Improve law enforcement capacity and the effectiveness of AML supervision in the UK


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  • Report published: Oct 2015

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