Following Choksi's footsteps? Wealthy Indians are rushing for new passports
There has been a growing interest among wealthy Indians to buy citizenship of other countries, ever since Mehul Choksi obtained a citizenship for Antigua in November 2017, TOI reports. Till now only Chinese and Russian were interested in citizenship in return for investment, but firms which deal with such demands have seen a rise in requests from wealthy Indians. Here's more on this.
Henley & Partners, a firm based in Jersey, that arranges foreign citizenship, said they saw a 320% rise in inquiries globally in the last year. The firm saw a significant rise in inquiries from Indians. Similarly, London-based firm Knightsbridge Capital Partners, that sells second citizenship to wealthy people, said it saw a 70-80% rise in inquiries from Indians. But how to get citizenship?
All you have to do is shed some money and get citizenship. A citizenship of Dominica or St Lucia costs $100,000, and by spending £2 million you can get an EU passport for Cyprus. Some countries accept a direct fund to their sovereign fund. Before one gets a passport, agents and host countries run a thorough check. The passport and naturalization certificate is issued in 3-14 months.
Now the question is, why are Indians looking for citizenship of other countries? Henley & Partners' Dominic Volek said just like Chinese and Russians they are also looking to seek better lifestyle, education, transport, and clean air. Further, Volek said many never leave their countries but have a second home and passport ready. Since dual-citizenship isn't allowed in India, they opt for residence-by-investment schemes.
Knightsbridge's Luke Hexter revealed there are other reasons too and access to EU single market is one of them. Hexter added the rich are employing all kinds of strategies to protect their wealth. While America, Canada, and Australia remain preferred destinations for Indians, they are also going for some 30-40 other countries, like Malta, whose passport allows easy mobility.
Reaz Jafri, CEO of Withers Global Advisors said sometimes the rich fear politically-motivated tax persecution. As opposed to earlier, when assets could be hidden, these days they prefer moving to a jurisdiction which provides flexibility. The firms, however, maintained they don't take up potentially risky cases and hence the background checks.
Jafri said a politician who may have taken bribes or accumulated wealth in the wrong manner, will not be taken up by his firm or any other. But is there a risk of losing a citizenship? Jafri said the chances are slim but if proven the facts were misrepresented at the time of application then it could be revoked.