Prosecution Service Investigates Criminal Group for "Golden Passports" at Investment Agency

Sofia, February 8 (BTA) - The prosecution service is investigating a criminal group at the InvestBulgaria Agency, involved in a suspected scheme for issue of "golden passports", Specialized Prosecutor's Office spokesperson Hristo Krastev told the media on Tuesday. The announcement comes a day after the prosecution service said that it was opening a probe into the "golden passports" scheme.

Actions are being carried out in the Bulgarian Investment Agency, the Bulgarian Citizenship Directorate of the Justice Ministry, the Migration Directorate of the Interior Ministry and the Economy Ministry.

According to Krastev, the criminal group at InvestBulgaria operated in the 2015-2021 period. Five investigators and two prosecutors are working on the case.

The State Agency for National Security has been instructed to check the origin of the money invested in Bulgaria by the passport holders, as well as whether the investment was maintained, said Krastev.

The prosecution service were alerted about the irregularities with "golden passports" by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). The alert named over 120 persons, mainly citizens of China and Russia, who had obtained residence permits in the 2015-2021 period under false pretense and with the help of the same intermediaries. They remitted an identical amount of money through a particular bank and were granted residence just by submitting photocopies of their statements of account.

Under the effective legislation, third-country nationals can obtain a permanent resident status if they invest at least 1 million leva and can be granted Bulgarian citizenship for a minimum 2 million leva investment without going through the cumbersome and time-consuming standard procedure.

The present government has already tabled legislative changes the eliminate that opportunity.

During a visit to Belgrade Tuesday, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told reporters that while being an Economy Minister in the caretaker government in 2021, he found out about the "golden passports" scheme and delegated it to Kalina Konstantinova, who meanwhile was appointed Deputy Prime Minister for Good Governance, to look into the matter.

He believes that MRF is using the issue as a publicity stunt and pointed out that the MRF campaign against the "golden passports" started after the government submitted a bill to scrap this opportunity. "Our [government] coalition, submitted a bill which is now being considered by a parliamentary committee, and I promised that these golden passports will be done away with", Petkov noted.  He finds it ridiculous that MRF are being so active on the matter now after doing nothing about it for four years. RY,ZH/DT,YV



Source: Sofia