UZBEKISTAN The astronomical prices of the Uzbek visa

Simplified procedure with the disbursement of at least one million dollars. The risk of the country becoming a huge money laundering machine. Russian oligarchs in the front row. The EU is not immune to the practice of visas in exchange for investment. In Turkey they grant citizenship for 425 thousand dollars and the opening of bank accounts.

Moscow () – The Uzbekistan authorities have decided to grant permanent residence visas and citizenship to foreigners in exchange for significant investments, a widespread practice in many countries. Uzbek citizenship will be granted with a simplified procedure to natural persons who conclude financial transactions in the country, investing money in projects for at least one million dollars. Priority will also be given to renowned scholars, athletes and representatives of culture and art.

These amendments to the law “On Citizenship of the Republic of Uzbekistan” have been the subject of public debate and many observers believe that they could turn the country into a huge money laundering machine, with the danger of even secondary sanctions.

The changes do not clarify which are the “million-dollar projects” that guarantee citizenship, nor what parameters must be respected. This is an extension of concessions in force since 2019, when the intention was to attract foreign companies with strong investment incentives, also including family members, who were granted “financial visas.” Since then, foreigners who invest 3 million dollars or more have obtained a residence visa in a very short time.

There is also the possibility of obtaining permanent permits for citizens of some countries in particular with the purchase of real estate in Uzbekistan, which thus becomes one of the most attractive countries for money laundering. Obviously, the goal is to use all means to support the strong development of the Uzbek society, reducing the state debt and increasing jobs and the number of qualified specialists.

A former Uzbek diplomat and journalist now living in Switzerland, Alisher Taksanov, is one of those most insistent on pointing out the risk of criminal drift in state finances. He notes that “according to statistics, in recent times the increase in trade and financial exchanges in Uzbekistan mainly concerns Russia; the Tashkent authorities are calling on the EU to lift sanctions against Usmanov, Putin’s Uzbek oligarch, and at the same time they want to grant citizenship to big investors…they don’t seem like coincidences to me.”

In practice, “they want to turn Uzbekistan into an offshore paradise to launder the Russian capital from the sanctioned oligarchs,” says Taksanov. “Mirziyoyev is playing with fire to defend his friend Putin.” Tashkent has always attracted foreigners due to its mild climate, low property prices, and equally low taxes of 12% as in Russia.

The other Central Asian countries have not yet introduced this type of practice in favor of foreigners, especially Russians, and at most they grant visas in exchange for money. Uzbekistan is becoming the regional leader in citizenship trade. In Kazakhstan, “abbreviated” citizenship is granted only to Kazakhs who were born in other countries.

Citizenship in exchange for investment is a widespread practice throughout the world. In the member countries of the EU, more than 27,000 million dollars have been allocated for this purpose in the last decade, especially in Greece, Malta, Bulgaria and Portugal, despite some opposition from the European authorities. Strong suspicion persists of dirty money laundering schemes to hide corruption and avoid taxes in the country of origin.

Right now one of the countries most willing to receive foreign investment is Turkey, which is flooded with Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians. Here, too, the Ankara authorities are facilitating the procedures to obtain a visa in exchange for funds, granting citizenship for $425,000 and opening bank accounts. The Turkish opposition denounces that “even terrorists can become our compatriots”, which already seems to be happening in Uzbekistan.

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Written by Editor TLN

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