Tens of thousands of so-called ‘golden visas’ have been granted to wealthy foreign investors, including more than 6,000 to Chinese and Russians, since the ‘backdoor’ scheme was launched 12 years ago.
Those eligible for the government’s tier one investor visa, which launched in 2008, must have at least £2million in investment funds and a UK bank account.
With that the can work or study in the UK for up to five years, while also being eligible to apply to settle in the country after making further investments.
there are concerns that the ‘golden visa’ scheme can be exploited, because not enough background checks are made on applicants.
The figures come just days after the intelligence and security committee (ISC) published its long-delayed Russia report which warned the UK is at risk of being exploited by Moscow because of the cosy relationship with its oligarchs.
The report read: ‘In brief, Russian influence in the UK is ‘the new normal’, and there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth. This level of integration – in ‘Londongrad’ in particular – means any measures now being taken by the Government are not preventative but rather constitute damage limitation.’
Former Labour minister Chris Bryant has accused the government of ‘giving out golden visas to dodgy Russian oligarchs,’ adding the system can be used as a ‘backdoor loophole’ to funnel dirty money into the UK.
Former Labour minister Chris Bryant said the system offers a ‘backdoor loophole’ to funnel dirty money into the UK
Today it was revealed 14 Conservative ministers, including six in the Cabinet, have accepted tens of thousands of pounds in donations from Russian oligarchs. All of the donations are legal under electoral rules and have been properly declared.
But there are concerns that the ‘golden visa’ scheme can be exploited, because not enough background checks are made on applicants.
Between July 2008 and March 2020 there were 12,175 tier one investor visas granted, according to analysis of Home Office figures.
Of these, 3,966 were granted to Chinese applicants and 2,477 handed to Russians.
From January 2019 to March 2020 the Government granted 1,035 of the visas, of which 436 were handed to Chinese or Russian applicants.
Mr Bryant, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was ‘genuinely shocked’ by the figures as he had expected them to have dropped ‘substantially’ in light of Government commitments to address concerns.
He told PA: ‘You can just buy a house, you don’t actually have to invest.
‘It seems like an extraordinary way to do business.
‘Clearly this loophole was being used for years as a backdoor way in to the UK for dodgy Russian money.
‘There should be a full review of the system and I think that should be published.
The ISC’s long-awaited Russia report read earlier this week: ‘There are a lot of Russians with very close links to (Vladimir) Putin (above) who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth
What’s a tier one investor visa?
Anyone with £2million in funds not tied up in securities or shares can apply to be granted entry for a period of up to three years and four months.
Successful applicants can then apply for permanent residence should they invest a certain amount in the UK.
According to workpermit.com, which provides international assistance to people seeking visas: ‘Those who invest £5,000,000 or more can apply to settle after 3 years, while those who invest £10,000,000 or more may apply after 2 years.
‘Investors on this visa cannot invest in any company whose main business activities involve managing, developing, or investing in property.’
‘It should show how many (golden visas) were granted over the last 10 years which they now think were inappropriate.’
In 2018 a report published by the Foreign Affairs Committee, which at that time included the now Home Secretary Priti Patel as a member, accused ministers of risking national security by ‘turning a blind eye’ to the Russian ‘dirty money’ flowing through the City of London.
Concerns over the practice of issuing golden visas were raised during this inquiry which found that despite the outcry over the Salisbury Novichok nerve agent attack, President Vladimir Putin and his allies were continuing to use the City as a base for their ‘corrupt assets’.
It demanded the Government show stronger political leadership and take action to close loopholes in the regime.
Then foreign secretary Boris Johnson appeared to suggest ‘there was no real role for Government in this process’, according to the report.
Tom Keatinge, of Royal United Services Institute’s Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies, was among those to raise concerns about investor visas when he gave evidence to the committee two years ago.
He told PA on Thursday: ‘The bottom line is that it remains the case that the UK appears to easily welcome into the country money from anybody.
‘The investor visas act as a cloak of approval in facilitating that money.
‘There clearly needs to be a much more rigorous process.’
Anti-corruption group Global Witness accused the UK of turning away those most in need of asylum but rolling out the red carpet for oligarchs.
Ava Lee, who leads the group’s threat to democracy campaign, said: ‘Despite a long-promised review of the unknown individuals granted golden visas, when almost no checks were being done on the source of their wealth, we have yet to see any progress at all.’
A Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘The Government will not tolerate any foreign interference in the running of our sovereign State and has taken action at every level to defend the UK, including from illicit finance.
‘We reformed the tier one visa route to better protect the country from illegally-obtained money in 2015 and 2019 and have not ruled out making further changes in the national interest.
‘We are also reviewing all tier one investor visas granted before these reforms were made and will report on our findings in due course.’
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Phillip Schofield buys £2 million house in west London
TV presenter Phil Schofield has splashed out on a £2 million bachelor pad in west London as he works out his ‘amicable’ £9 million divorce with his wife, MailOnline can reveal.
This Morning star Schofield, 58, was seen leaving the large semi-detached property in Chiswick today with co-presenter and close friend Holly Willoughby.
The pair emerged from the house on their bicycles to set off for a leisurely ride in bright afternoon sunshine.
The house, just a stone’s throw from The Thames, is close to his ITV colleague Declan Donnelly’s home and Ant McPartlin’s former home he shared with Lisa Armstrong.
TV presenter Phil Schofield has splashed out on a £2 million bachelor pad in west London as he works out his ‘amicable’ £9 million divorce with his wife, MailOnline can reveal. Schofield, 58, was seen leaving the large semi-detached property with co-presenter Holly Willoughby
The house, just a stone’s throw from The Thames, is close to his ITV colleague Declan Donnelly’s home and Ant McPartlin’s former home he shared with Lisa Armstrong
Schofield and Willoughby were spotted emerging from the house on their bicycles to set off for a leisurely ride in bright afternoon sunshine
Donning a cycling helmet today, the presenter was dressed in a tee-shirt and cycling shorts with his co-host in a grey tee shirt and black leggings.
Neighbours told MailOnline that they had regularly seen the presenter around the area since moving in around two weeks ago.
He has also been frequenting pubs along the River Thames, which just lies a short distance from his new home.
Locals said that Schofield is seen more on foot or bike than in his luxury Jaguar sports car which has a private number plate and is parked on the forecourt of his new home.
One neighbour said: ‘It’s caused quite a stir since he’s moved in and got people very excited. He seems like a very nice man and quite normal. You see him walking or cycling mainly and he smiles every time he goes past.’
Another neighbour added: ‘There’s quite a few famous people already living around here so Phillip Schofield moving in is not a big deal. A lot of people have been talking about it, but nobody bothers him. He’s a lovely bloke and I’m sure he’ll enjoy living in our community.
The news of the move follows a tumultuous few months for one of Britain’s most popular TV faces, following his tearful on-air ‘coming out’ on live television in February.
Neighbours told MailOnline that they had regularly seen the presenter around the area since moving in around two weeks ago. He has also been frequenting pubs along the River Thames, which just lies a short distance from his new home
Neighbours said that Schofield is seen more on foot or bike than in his luxury Jaguar sports car which has a private number plate and is parked on the forecourt of his new home
One neighbour said: ‘It’s caused quite a stir since he’s moved in and got people very excited. He seems like a very nice man and quite normal. You see him walking or cycling mainly and he smiles every time he goes past’
He is said to be keen to keep his divorce from wife of 27 years Steph as amicable as possible and maintain a good relationship with his daughters.
As well as his new property in Chiswick, he is building an annexe at the family home in Oxfordshire.
The new house on a wide residential road boasts a magnificent open-plan kitchen, three receptions, six bedrooms and a converted basement.
MailOnline understands he bought from a family who were moving to New Zealand and put the property on the market about a year ago for £2 million.
His TV pals will be close at hand, with Willoughby living just across the river in Barnes and Dec down the road.
Schofield’s first home with Steph before they married was also in Chiswick, which might also explain the move.
They met when he was 25 and had just landed a job on the BBC’s flagship Saturday morning show, Going Live, and she was a researcher.
The young couple moved in the leafy west London suburb, and married six years later.
He reportedly told a friend that he had known ‘within three weeks’ that Steph was the woman he was going to marry, and that they were deeply infatuated with each other in the early days.
This week, Schofield’s net worth was revealed to have topped £9m, increasing by £800,000 in the last year alone, thanks in part to a £60,000 deal making him the face of a gin advent calendar and his new tell-all autobiography, Life’s What You Make It comes out next month.
News of the move follows a tumultuous few months for one of Britain’s most popular TV faces, following his tearful on-air ‘coming out’ on live television in February. He is said to be keen to keep his divorce from wife of 27 years Steph (above) as amicable as possible. The couple are pictured here outside the marital home in Oxford
The new house on a wide residential road boasts a magnificent open-plan kitchen, three receptions, six bedrooms and a converted basement
MailOnline understands he bought from a family who were moving to New Zealand and put the property on the market about a year ago for £2 million. His TV pals will be close at hand, with Willoughby living just across the river in Barnes and Dec down the road
As co-director of his company, Steph is likely to be entitled to half of everything, but the couple are determined to remain friends.
A source told The Sun: ‘Phillip and Steph have had a lot of hard, painful conversations over the past ten months but remain as tight and devoted to one another as ever.
‘Steph is entitled to half. He is not disputing this — all he wants in return is her ongoing loyalty . . . and discretion, his family is his number one priority and that will never change.’
The couple co-own a plush £2.5 million country pile in Henley-on-Thames, which has been the family home for many years with their two grown-up daughters, Ruby and Mollie.
The TV star also owns an incredible holiday home in Portugal, in the Algarve and offers stunning views across the Portuguese hills.
Naturally, the villa has a private swimming pool and perfectly manicured lawns, as well as a number of al-fresco eating spots.
In September it was revealed that Phil more than doubled his salary in a year, from £803,000 to £1.73 million.
The £927,000 rise for the ITV host was revealed in newly published accounts and was largely due to Dancing On Ice’s return in January last year.
Phillip also co-owns a plush country pile located in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, which has been the family home for many years with Steph and his two grown-up daughters, Ruby and Mollie
In February, Schofield — who made his name with Gordon the Gopher on BBC’s Broom Cupboard — stunned viewers when he revealed he was gay.
He said he had wrestled with the decision, adding: ‘You never know what’s going on in someone’s seemingly perfect life.
‘So you won’t know what has been consuming me for the last few years.’
Schofield’s agent was contacted for comment.
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Entrepreneur LOSES Court of Appeal bid to overturn ruling that handed his ex-wife millions
An entrepreneur who moved a Playboy model into the luxury flat he shared with his ex-wife during their messy divorce has lost a bid to take a larger slice of their fortune.
Richard Rothschild, 45, was last year handed just £26,000, which he claims left him ‘penniless’ compared to the millions awarded to 46-year-old Charmaine de Souza.
Ms de Souza was given £1.73million – 95 per cent of the family wealth – as well as their £2.3million Miami condo.
Claiming the ruling was ‘unfair’ and left him with ‘in effect no capital at all and no income’, Mr Rothschild challenged the decision.
But a judge today threw out his appeal and upheld the original ruling, which split the money so unevenly because of Mr Rothschild’s actions and rampant spending on legal bills during their divorce.
Richard Rothschild, 45, (pictured with Playboy model Sherra Michelle) was last year handed just £26,000, which he claims left him ‘penniless’ compared to the millions awarded to 46-year-old Charmaine de Souza
Ms de Souza was given £1.73million – 95 per cent of their wealth – as well as their £2.3million Miami condo
The court heard that the couple had enjoyed a ‘very good’ lifestyle together – Mr Rothschild drove a Lamborghini and they also enjoyed the expensive condo in an exclusive Miami Beach apartment block (pictured)
The court heard that the couple had enjoyed a ‘very good’ lifestyle together – Mr Rothschild drove a Lamborghini and they also enjoyed the expensive condo in an exclusive Miami Beach apartment block.
They had met as students in 2005 and managed a successful London telecoms firm together.
But following their split in 2016, they clashed in court two years later when Mr Rothschild moved his then girlfriend, Playboy model Sherra Michelle, into the couple’s apartment.
It prompted a bid by Ms de Souza to get him jailed for contempt of court and saw Mr Rothschild run up over £1million in legal bills during their divorce.
In December last year, Mr Justice Cohen scolded Mr Rothschild for pursuing the ‘most destructive litigation’.
He said the entrepreneur had ‘brought it [the ruling] on himself’ because of the ‘huge and unnecessary haemorrhage of money to pay for this litigation’.
Lord Justice Moylan today upheld the December order, claiming it had been ‘just’ and ‘fair’.
Mr Rothschild (left) moved Playboy model Sherra Michelle (right) into the apartment he once shared with his wife and children, following their split
The appeal judge said the wife had set out numerous ways in which her ex-husband’s conduct had ‘impacted adversely on the financial circumstances of the family,’ diminishing what was left to divide up.
It included ‘deliberate and wanton’ overspending, ‘destructive behaviour’ which reduced the value of their fortune and his ‘sustained refusal to participate appropriately’ in the court case by bringing hopeless applications and failing to comply with orders, ‘needlessly increasing costs by a vast amount.’
Lord Justice Moylan added that ‘the husband acknowledged that the impact of the breakdown of the marriage had caused him “to stray from the path of reason and, occasionally, focus upon peripheral rather than fundamental aspects of the proceedings”.’
He noted that the husband ‘has no current earned income’, adding that he ‘has taken no steps to achieve one,’ although as a natural entrepreneur he is likely to prosper in future.
Ms de Souza had a 21-year relationship with Mr Rothschild after meeting as students, marrying in 2005
Ms De Souza, pictured here in Miami, has two young daughters with Mr Rothschild
He said Mr Justice Cohen had described the husband’s lifestyle after the split as ‘extraordinary.’
Mr Rothschild had ‘spent the time travelling the world’ and claimed that it was in the family’s financial interest that, instead of trying to earn money, it was better that ‘he preserves his non-domiciled tax status and lives a life of luxury on the back of the Airmiles’.
‘The judge noted that it was ‘hard to follow the logic’,’ Lord Justice Moylan added.
Quoting Mr Justice Cohen, he said: ‘It is obvious that this has been the most destructive litigation. There is no avoiding the fact that the husband is very largely responsible for the situation that has arisen.
‘Since the breakdown of the marriage, he has acted destructively and throughout the litigation without any regard to the normal rules… the husband has brought this upon himself.’
For the husband, Patrick Chamberlayne QC argued that the ‘central problem’ with the divorce ruling was that Mr Justice Cohen had made it clear that he was not taking Mr Rothschild’s conduct into account and was basing his decision on the former couple’s financial needs.
However, the judge must have taken the husband’s behaviour into account, because that would be the only way to explain such an equal split of the couple’s wealth, he said.
Dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Moylan said: ‘It is plain…that the judge was entitled to take the husband’s litigation conduct into account.
‘The amount spent on legal costs would have been a modest fraction of this but for the husband’s conduct.
‘I do not accept Mr Chamberlayne’s submission that the disparity in outcome cannot be justified in this case.
‘I do not accept that conduct cannot lead to a party receiving less than their needs. It plainly can be justified.
‘The judge was entitled to conclude that the resources allocated to the wife were no more than sufficient to meet her needs both in the short term and the long term.
‘He was equally entitled to conclude that the amount allocated to the husband, also taking into account the husband’s prospects, and the other material factors such as his conduct, was a just proportion of the assets and was sufficient to meet his needs at a level which was fair to him in the circumstances of this case.’
Dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Moylan also upheld a previous ruling that a £610,000 debt owed to Mr Rothschild’s mum, Wanda, was unlikely to be enforced by her.
‘The disparity between the parties is, therefore, not as great as that suggested by Mr Chamberlayne,’ he said.
Lord Justice Newey and Lord Justice Patten agreed with Lord Justice Moylan’s ruling and the appeal was dismissed.
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Police hunt for missing girl, 16, who vanished from her home in North Wales
Skye Roberts, 16, has not been seen since Thursday afternoon and police and her family are extremely concerned for her welfare
An urgent search has been launched to locate a teenage girl who has vanished from her home.
Police are urging the public to help them locate 16-year-old Skye Roberts, who was last seen in the Cwmgwili area of Camarthenshire on Thursday afternoon.
She has a number of links to North Wales, and specifically to the Amlwch area of Anglesey.
A Dyfed Powys Police spokesman said: ‘Can you help us find missing 16 year old Skye Roberts?
‘Skye was last seen in Cwmgwili, Carmarthenshire [on Thursday] afternoon, but her family and the police are concerned for her wellbeing.
‘She is believed to be wearing a dark hoody, and a small dark grey rucksack, her hair is long and red on one side but shaved on the other.’
They added: ‘She is approximately 5ft tall and of medium build.
‘She has links in North Wales, specifically the Amlwch area, and also has links in Carmarthen.
‘Please, if you have any info about where she is, have seen her or spoken to her, contact us as a matter of urgency by calling 101.’
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