Mon, Sep 10, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Wealthy Russians in UK facing new visa scrutiny

The Observer

The right of more than 700 wealthy Russians to live in the UK is under review as the government mulls new ways of curtailing the power and influence of the Kremlin following the Salisbury poisonings.

Home Office sources have said that ministers believe there may need to be further restrictions on the issuing of visas to overseas investors.

This follows a decade when hundreds of well-connected Russians, many of whom are allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, have been allowed to make the UK their home in return for investing as little as £1 million (US$1.29 million).

Anti-corruption groups and Krelim critics, who have long complained that the UK has made it too easy for Putin’s allies to reside in the UK, welcomed confirmation of the crackdown.

It comes at the end of a week when British Prime Minister Theresa May said the government had concluded that two officers from the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, were responsible for the poisoning in March of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

The Home Office is conducting a review of tier 1 investor visas, the use of which was heavily curtailed three years ago amid concerns they were being issued to people whose wealth had been achieved by corruption.

Under the changes introduced in 2015, which included raising the investment requirement to £2 million, applicants could be asked to confirm the origins of their wealth, something that saw a substantial tailing off in approved applications.

A Home Office spokesman declined to comment on the review’s findings, but it is understood that the Home Office believes a further shake-up of the visa system might now be necessary as tensions between the Kremlin and London continue to rise.

A Home Office source confirmed that the review, the third in four years, extends back to 2008, when the tier 1 scheme was introduced under the then-Labour government, which means it involves scrutinizing in excess of 3,000 visas, more than 700 of them issued to Russian investors.

“We are reviewing all tier 1 [investor] visas granted before 5 April 2015, some of which are issued to wealthy Russians. We have not ruled out making further changes to the tier 1 investor route in order to ensure that it continues to work in the national interest,” the source said.

“We have been calling on the government to reassess recipients of the tier 1 visa to make sure that their entry to the UK was not predicated on suspicious wealth,” said Rachel Davies Teka, head of advocacy at Transparency International, an anti-corruption organization. “We are therefore delighted that the government now appears to have committed to carrying out these checks.”

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