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Bulgaria abolishes 'golden passport' scheme for wealthy foreigners

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By Euronews  with AFP
Bulgaria's Prime Minister Kiril Petkov arrives at the Chateau de Versailles to attend the second day of the EU summit, Friday, March 11, 2022 in Versailles, west of Paris
Bulgaria's Prime Minister Kiril Petkov arrives at the Chateau de Versailles to attend the second day of the EU summit, Friday, March 11, 2022 in Versailles, west of Paris   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

MPs in Bulgaria have backed a decision to end the controversial issuing of so-called "golden passports".

Lawmakers voted in favour of two amendments that will prevent foreigners from acquiring EU citizenship in exchange for large investments.

The European Union has again condemned the issuing of "golden passports" after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The schemes have long been criticised for links to corruption and money laundering.

Since 2013, wealthy foreign citizens could invest one million levs (€511,000) in Bulgaria to obtain permanent residency. They could also obtain Bulgarian citizenship for another investment of €511,000.

But the new Bulgarian government -- which had pledged to root out corruption -- announced its intention to abolish the "golden passport" scheme.

Despite the new amendments, foreign citizens could still obtain residency in exchange for investments.

But Bulgaria's security agency will now investigate citizens that have already received residency or citizenship rights.

More than 130,000 people are believed benefited from EU "golden passports" between 2011 and 2019, in exchange for investments of over €21.8 billion.

In Bulgaria, over 100 foreigners -- mainly from Russia, China and the Middle East -- had obtained a "golden passport" since 2013.

Earlier this month, the Maltese government announced it would be suspending the "golden passports" for Russian and Belarussian nationals.