On 15 July, The Guardian published an article saying that more than 2,000 people, including individuals sought by police, have purchased passports, and with them visa-free access to the EU and UK. Among those granted citizenship through the country’s development support program were a Syrian businessman with US sanctions against his businesses, a suspected North Korean politician, an Italian businessman accused of extorting the Vatican, a “bikie” a former member of a notorious Australian motorcycle gang, and South African brothers accused of a $3.6 billion cryptocurrency heist. The scheme allows foreign nationals to purchase citizenship for $130,000 in a process that typically takes just over a month – all without ever setting foot in the country, and marketed by agencies as one of the fastest, cheapest and most lax “golden passport” schemes anywhere in the world. The Guardian obtained official documents under FoI and has been able to confirm the identities of dozens of the individuals on the list. More than half were granted to Chinese nationals. After Chinese, the most common nationality of recipients was Nigerian, Russian, Lebanese, Iranian, Libyan, Syrian and Afghan.
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