The head of Portugal’s immigration and border service is among 11 people detained in a corruption inquiry surrounding the country’s granting of so-called ‘Golden Visas’ to wealthy foreign investors.
Manuel Palos is being investigated alongside other officials, including Antonio Figueiredo, the head of the National Notary and Registry Institute, amid claims of money-laundering and influence peddling surrounding the scheme.
Palos’s SEF immigration service as well as government ministries have been searched by police.
Opposition politicians have long argued that Golden Visas could open the way to criminals and stoke corruption.
The programme allows non-EU citizens to obtain residency permits in Portugal in return for investing a million euros in capital, at least half a million euros on a property there or creating 10 jobs in the country. Chinese buyers in particular have embraced the opportunity.
Neighbouring Spain and some other EU countries have similar schemes. The Portuguese permits allow foreigners to travel freely within Europe’s 26-country Schengen zone without restriction.