UK Tier 1 investor visa targeted by May after nerve-agent poisoning

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Sanwar Ali comment:

The tier 1 investor visa is probably one of the most expensive visas in the World requiring an investment of £2 million.  This investigation looks as if it is politically motivated. 

At a time when there are very serious allegations of racial discrimination by the Home Office following the Windrush scandal, and racial discrimination by those sponsored by the Home Office, care should be taken to make sure that investigations into Russian investors does not lead to fresh allegations of racial discrimination.  There is talk of a new scandal similar in some respects to the Windrush scandal involving one of the UK visa regulators.  If civil servants have behaved badly then they should do the honourable and decent thing and resign.  It should be noted that Amber Rudd the former Home Secretary recently resigned.

Following the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on UK soil, more than 100 Russian diplomats have been banished from Britain, the US and the European Union. In a coordinated response, described as a political victory for May, ambassadors of Russia have been expelled as their home nation stands accused of an unlawful chemical attack.

The UK Prime Minister (PM) presented compelling evidence that Russia was behind the poisoning of former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, 66 and his daughter Yulia, 33. The pair were poisoned at their home in Salisbury by a nerve-agent known as Novichok.

Theresa May said: “There’s no conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable.” The PM ejected 23 Russian diplomats from the UK, while a total of 26 nations – including the US and European allies – expelled more than 130 Russian representatives.

Russia denies attack

Russia has pleaded innocence to the attack, and vowed to retaliate against what the Kremlin describes as a ‘provocative gesture.’ In response to the removal of 23 Russian diplomats from the UK, Russia has banished 23 UK representatives from the former Soviet Union state.

Meanwhile, UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson said: “The nerve-agent attack has sparked a global wave of revulsion against Russia. Never before has there been a collective expulsion of Russian diplomats on the scale that we have seen in recent days.”

Russian Tier 1 investor visa holders targeted

As hostility towards Russia intensifies, a number of Russian millionaires who have invested in London – mostly in real estate – are reportedly being targeted by the UK government because they might be allies of Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

A lot of Russia’s rich elite enter the UK through the Tier 1 investor visa system, which grants access to Britain for those who want to invest £2 million or more. Theresa May indicated that she would be targeting ‘illicit and corrupt finance’ and suggested that Tier 1 investor visa rules would be further tightened for those who apply.

The UK Prime Minister stated that Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, is looking into the Tier 1 investor visa and how it operates in its current state. Mrs May said: “We will look at what steps, if any, can be taken to crackdown on Tier 1 visa abuse.”

The former Home Secretary insisted that decisions to remove 23 Russian diplomats from the UK and any crackdown on the Tier 1 investor visa is being motivated by evidence, not speculation.

She said: “We have information indicating that within the last decade, Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve-agents probably for assassination – and as part of this program has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks.”

700 rich Russians to be investigated

Amber Rudd has revealed that Home Office officials are now investigating more than 700 Russian millionaires who entered Britain between 2008 and 2015, prior to Tier 1 investor visa rules initially being tightened.

The investigations are to determine whether the wealth of these rich Russians stems from ‘dirty money.’ Rudd told the cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday, 28 March: “My officials will look at what reforms we might continue with and will also take a look at previous ones over the past few years.”

“The Tier 1 was already reformed in 2015-2016, and it has been reduced by 84 percent since then. I have asked officials to look at the cohort of previous applicants to identify whether any action needs to be taken.”

Meanwhile, Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge said that Russian millionaires are second only to Chinese investors for UK Tier 1 investor visas granted. Hodge, who refers to the investor visa as the ‘golden visa’, asked Home Office Minister Ben Wallace what steps were in place to screen the origin of £2 million+ investments to stop dirty money investors.

Mr Wallace replied: “We do already have the powers in our visa regime to take action and we will quite rightly, as Ms Hodge says, be looking at the Tier 1 investor system to make sure that we do better due diligence if we need to on where the money comes from.”

Tier 1 visa targeting a surprise to Russian Embassy

The Russian Embassy in London has expressed its surprise at a report published by TheTimes covering the Tier 1 visa review, which ran the headline ‘Wealthy Russians could lose visas.’

Theresa May and Amber Rudd have stopped short of saying that any Tier 1 visa overhaul is specifically for wealthy Russians, insisting that investors from all nations would be screened. In response to the inflammatory headline, the Russian Embassy took to Twitter, tweeting: “Targeting all dirty money or just people of a particular nationality?”

“The former is welcome though long overdue, the latter went out of fashion in 1945,” the tweet added.