Lon­don curbs in­vestor visas to fight crime

Business Day - - Companies - Guy Faulcon­bridge Lon­don

Bri­tain will sus­pend its top-tier in­vestor visas, which re­quire £2m in in­vest­ment, as part of a drive to crack down on or­gan­ised crime and money laun­der­ing.

From Rus­sian oli­garchs and Mid­dle Eastern oil barons to newly minted Chi­nese en­trepreneurs, the wealthy have flocked to Lon­don over the past two decades, snap­ping up ev­ery­thing from op­u­lent homes to soc­cer clubs.

The in­flux of su­per-rich has brought bil­lions of pounds in in­vest­ment and helped Lon­don pre­serve its po­si­tion as one of the world’s top two global fi­nan­cial cap­i­tals, though the gov­ern­ment has been con­cerned by the prove­nance of some of the wealth.

“I have been clear that we will not tol­er­ate peo­ple who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the sys­tem,” im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter Caro­line Nokes said

“That is why I am bring­ing for­ward these new mea­sures which will make sure that only gen­uine in­vestors, who in­tend to sup­port UK busi­nesses, can ben­e­fit from our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem,” she said.

The tier-1 in­vestor visas, which of­fered non-EU res­i­dents more than three years’ en­try in re­turn for £2m in in­vest­ment in UK bonds, share cap­i­tal or loan cap­i­tal in Bri­tish com­pa­nies, will be sus­pended from mid­night on De­cem­ber 7.

After the changes, ap­pli­cants seek­ing to in­vest in the UK will have to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive au­dits of all their fi­nan­cial and busi­ness in­ter­ests, the in­te­rior min­istry said.

The au­dits will have to be car­ried out by UK-reg­is­tered au­dit­ing firms.

Those com­pa­nies seek­ing such visas will have to prove they have con­trol of the in­vest­ment needed. Such in­vestors will not be able to sim­ply buy gov­ern­ment bonds.

About 1,000 ap­pli­ca­tions were made for such visas in the past year.

The Na­tional Crime Agency, which tack­les se­ri­ous and or­gan­ised crime, said in Septem­ber it was step­ping up ef­forts to tackle dirty money fun­nelled into or through the UK by “cor­rupt elites”.

The agency planned to ex­tend the use of Un­ex­plained Wealth Or­ders (UWOs), one means by which the as­sets of cor­rupt “po­lit­i­cally ex­posed per­sons” or those linked to se­ri­ous crime, can be seized.

In Oc­to­ber, it was re­vealed that the first tar­get of a UWO was the wife of a jailed Az­eri banker from whom the au­thor­i­ties seized prop­erty worth about £22m.

Caro­line Nokes

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