From crooks to North Korean politicians, anyone can buy a Vanuatu passport

Passport sales accounted for 42 percent of the archipelago’s total government revenue in 2020.Build Getty Images

According to a study conducted by the British newspaper Watchman. For 110 thousand euros and a waiting period of a maximum of one month, the new owner of a Vanuatu passport can travel visa-free to 130 countries in the world, including all countries of the European Union.

Also useful: in Vanuatu there are no taxes on income, business or wealth, and it is also possible to change your name, making it possible to legally purchase a completely new identity across the archipelago. Actual residence in the new homeland is not an obligation, nor is any knowledge of the country or language proficiency.

The sale of “golden” passports has been seen as a problem around the world for some time because it encourages corruption, tax evasion and money laundering, and it also provides criminals and terrorists with an additional option to hide. In Vanuatu it has been possible to buy a passport for money since 2017, but thanks to research Watchman It is now clear for the first time exactly what types of people this practice attracts.

Doubtful Louie

In 2020, a total of 2,200 passports were sold, more than half of which went to wealthy Chinese, followed by many customers from Nigeria, Russia, Lebanon, Iran, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. Many of the people on the list are questionable in nature, too. For example, the passports went to two cryptocurrency dealers, accused of embezzling more than 3 billion euros, and one to an Italian businessman who allegedly extorted 15 million euros from the Vatican during a real estate transaction.

Also on the list: a former director of FIFA, a Nigerian TV priest, a former prime minister of Libya, a former head of the Algerian gendarmerie, a North Korean politician, a princess from the Emirates, a member of the Australian biker gang and the former Syrian ruler of Damascus.

Vanuatu, an archipelago structurally plagued by natural disasters, is one of the poorest countries in the world with an average GDP of €2352. So selling passports is basically a financial issue. In 2020, documents accounted for 42 percent of total government revenue.

Vanuatu is not the only country in the world that offers golden passports in return. In 2019, Bulgaria, Malta and Cyprus were reprimanded by the European Commission for making it too easy for wealthy foreigners to obtain EU citizenship for money. This requires a little more money than the Pacific region. In Malta, you get a passport for an investment of at least 800 thousand euros. In Bulgaria, the minimum is 1 million euros and Cyprus asks for 2 million euros.

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