Moldovan Cash for Passports Programme Draws Criticism

Moldova’s ruling Democratic Party has proposed amending the country’s citizenship law, which would grant citizenship to wealthy foreign investors and bypass standard procedures, which have so far included learning the language and studying the constitution.

The country’s parliament however is divided on the issue, as some MPs feel that it will only worsen Moldova’s reputation for corruption. In the 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, Moldova ranked 122nd out of 180 countries.

“Vlad Plahotniuc, the chairman of the Democratic Party and head of the ruling coalition, is widely seen as a driving force of corruption in Moldova,” writes Kaunain Rahman, a Transparency International consultant. “Apart from being the wealthiest businessman in the country, he is the top oligarch with real power, running the show from behind the scenes. The peculiarity of Moldovan state capture is that the country is essentially owned by a single person, creating room for monopolies and grand corruption in all spheres of governance.”

Following the submission of the draft, Roman Botan, chairman of the National Security Commission, resigned from his post saying he doesn’t want to be associated with such a law.

The number of people who can apply for citizenship has expanded from 5000 to an undefined number, undermining the image of the country.

Furthermore, the names of the country’s new citizens will not be indicated on official documents, so they will remain anonymous.

“Who obtains citizenship: a file or a person? It’s strange that it is a matter of classifying those who will gain citizenship by investing. These investments could come from fraud, which would create the premises for legalising illegal assets,” Mr Botan added.

Moldova launched its current citizenship-through-investment programme in September 2017. The scheme makes people who invest at least 250,000 euros in real estate, government bonds or the country’s public investment fund eligible for citizenship.