Travel News

Travellers stranded as airlines ditch U.S. destinations over 5G rollout - THE GUARDIAN

JANUARY 21, 2022

Nigerian international travellers, among others, were yesterday stranded as some foreign airlines withdrew flight services into the United States, citing safety concerns over 5G rollout.

The passengers, who had earlier booked connecting flights into the United States, were caught in transit by abrupt modification on U.S. scheduled flights by the likes of Emirates, Lufthansa, British Airways and Air India.

Transportation regulators had already been concerned that the version of 5G that was scheduled to be switched on could interfere with some airplane instruments, and many aviation industry groups shared those fears – despite reassurances from federal telecom regulators and wireless carriers.

Specifically, the Federal Aviation Administration has been worried that 5G cellular antennas near some airports – not air travellers’ mobile devices – could throw off readings from some aircraft equipment designed to tell pilots how far they are from the ground.

Those systems, known as radar altimeters, are used throughout a flight and are considered critical equipment.

An Emirates Boeing 777 flying to the U.S. on Thursday ended up landing thousands of miles away in Russia after encountering control problems. The twinjet eventually diverted to St Petersburg, having changed its requested destination several times along the way.

Emirates said it would suspend flights into nine U.S. airports – Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle.

“We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns, and we hope to resume our US services as soon as possible,” Emirates said in a statement.

As of Wednesday, British Airways had cancelled a handful of flights “because a decision by telecom operators to delay activating the new 5G service at some locations didn’t cover all the airports the airline serves.”

Germany’s Lufthansa also cancelled a flight between Frankfurt and Miami. It said it would swap Boeing 747-8 aircraft for 747-400s on flights from Frankfurt to Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco.

5G data roll-out, which has been postponed in the U.S. severally, represents the next step in terms of internet usage on mobile phone networks. It will likely take over from the existing 4G setup offered by most providers, with widespread use foreseen by the middle of the decade.

With higher bandwidth promised by 5G networks, users will have faster access to the internet and more consistent connections, even at busy events such as sporting fixtures. However, its rollout is now beginning to threaten to impact airline operations.

Leading commercial airplane manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing Corporations, had, in December, urged the United States to delay rollout of new 5G phone services over safety concerns.

In a letter, top executives at Boeing and Airbus warned that the technology could have “an enormous negative impact on the aviation industry.”

Amid mounting pressure and the potential of widespread flight cancellations, Verizon and AT&T have once again delayed their 5G rollouts in areas near airports. Nonetheless, flight schedules have still been hit hard, with most of Air India’s US-bound flights shelved yesterday.

ANA, Emirates, and JAL have made similar cuts over the potential interference with radio altimeters. To minimise disruption, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has designated 50 ‘buffer zone’ airports.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), yesterday, welcomed the decisions by ATT and Verizon to delay the rollout of C-band 5G near airports and lauded the Biden Administration for its continuous efforts to ensure that passenger and cargo operations are not disrupted.

IATA’s Director-General, Willie Walsh, stated that the delay was only a temporary solution.

“It is still necessary for all stakeholders and regulators, aviation and telecommunication alike, to continue sharing needed technical information and working together to reach a successful implementation plan that will ensure C-band 5G technologies can safely co-exist with the aviation industry. Any mitigation measures to ensure safe flying must be operationally viable,” Walsh said.

To that end, IATA urged the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to recognise the needs and recommendations of the aviation community in deploying C-band 5G.

It also urged the U.S. FAA to accelerate its engagement with the FCC and to continue working with the industry and aircraft makers to expedite the enhancement of safe Alternative Means of Compliance (AMOC) solutions to minimise any 5G-related disruptions.

FG’ll ensure completion of Ebonyi airport – Sirika - PUNCH

JANUARY 21, 2022

BY  Okechukwu Nnodim

The Federal Government is going to ensure that the construction of the Ebonyi State airport is completed, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said on Thursday.

He disclosed this in his office in Abuja while playing host to the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, according to a statement issued by the spokesperson of the aviation ministry, James Odaudu.

The statement read in part, “The minister gave the assurance that the Ministry of Aviation will do whatever is required to bring the project (Ebonyi airport) to fruition, considering the prospects for employment generation.”

Sirika described the Ebonyi State airport project as a worthwhile one that would definitely open up the state to both domestic and international investments.

Sirika said Umahi’s decision to build the airport was one of courage and foresight, believing that the airport was guaranteed to expose the state’s agricultural potentials to the international market.

He told his guest that the Federal Government had since inception, embarked on creating an enabling environment for the expansion of the aviation industry in Nigeria and this had been acknowledged by the global aviation community.

Umahi had earlier briefed the minister on the progress of the airport project and said he remained committed to its successful completion, considering the expected benefits to the people of the state.

He expressed the appreciation of the state to the Federal Government for the encouragement and support in seeing the project to its present stage and assured Sirika that the airport when completed would meet all industry requirements.

Hong Kong Locks Down Building for Five Days to Curb Omicron - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 21, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong is locking down about 2,700 residents for five days, the first time it’s closed off an apartment building for more than 48 hours, in the hope of containing a superspreader event that has already led to at least 16 people testing positive for Covid. 

The government will provide food and other supplies to residents during the lockdown, which began Friday night and runs through Wednesday, said Sophia Chan, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health. They will be tested every day. 

“There’s need for us to take speedy action to avoid further spread,” Chan said at a briefing Friday evening. “We hope to return to normal before Lunar New Year for people there.”

The unprecedented step at the public housing complex is one of the most drastic measures Hong Kong has launched as it works to eradicate the virus within its borders. The decision was a compromise, since the city-run quarantine facilities where close contacts are typically sent are quickly filling up. 

The city has reported roughly 120 local infections in the past three weeks, after going for more than seven months through late December without any transmission unrelated to international travel. The sudden surge has unnerved authorities and taxed the local infrastructure that’s normally used to house people during quarantine periods.

“We’ve identified a superspreader and there may be some patients in their incubation period,” Chan said, pointing out that the goal is to find hidden cases. “This is for the common good. It’s to protect everybody in Hong Kong.”

The longest previous lockdown in Hong Kong was imposed nearly a year ago and lasted for a weekend. At the time, the goal was to test everyone in the district, and residents could leave once everyone was tested. Since then, the government has implemented only overnight snap lockdowns to quickly carry out tests, then allow everyone to return to work the next day. 

A Year Ago: Hong Kong Imposes First Covid Lockdown in Kowloon Area

Even a limited lockdowns and restrictions on movement create a heavy toll for residents in the densely populated city, which has some of the smallest living spaces in the world. The average apartment size is about 500 square feet. Those in public estates, such as the one that is currently under lockdown, are usually smaller in size.

Hong Kong has shut schools, banned flight routes, ended indoor restaurant dining after 6 p.m. and closed bars, gyms and beaches since omicron snuck past its fortress-like borders in the past several weeks. After just three local infections a week ago, there were 18 confirmed cases on Friday -- the most since March 2021.

(Adds quote from Chan in the sixth paragraph)

U.S. Weighs Evacuating Diplomats’ Family Members From Ukraine - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 21, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is weighing whether to evacuate family members of diplomats stationed in Ukraine as Russia masses more than 100,000 troops on its borders, according to people familiar with the matter.

Under the plan, non-essential staff would be able to leave voluntarily while family members would be ordered to return home. An announcement may come within days, according to the people, who asked not to be identified before a decision is reached.

The Biden administration has increased its warnings over a potential invasion as Russia continues to build up its forces near Ukraine’s borders. A decision to evacuate wouldn’t mean the U.S. is certain that Russia will invade and simply reflects prudent preparations as tensions rise, one of the people said.

State Department officials declined to comment. 

At a meeting in Geneva on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed to provide written responses to Russian demands and meet again in an effort to resolve the impasse over Ukraine diplomatically. But Blinken told reporters “if Russia wants to begin to convince the world that it has no aggressive intent toward Ukraine, a very good place to start would be de-escalating.”

Blinken Pledges More Talks; Lavrov Dismisses Ukraine ‘Hysteria’

Lavrov dismissed Western “hysteria” over Ukraine and repeated that Moscow has no plans to attack its neighbor.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that Russia has evacuated family members and some staff from its diplomatic missions in Ukraine.

UK entices care workers from Nigeria with £20,480 salary - NEWS BAND

JANUARY 21, 2022

By Kalu Nwokoro Idika

Because of the growing effect of Covid-19 and workers shortage, the United Kingdom government is desperately searching from anywhere in the world ‘care assistants and nursing home staff’ with little or no professional training, to come in for a minimum £20,480 salary per year.

The UK Department of Health and Social Care announced in a statement plans to expand the Health and Care visa scheme to recruit care workers.

The Health and Care Worker visa was unveiled in August 2020 and it permits medical professionals “to come to UK and work with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care,” part of the statement said.

The Visa offers 50 per cent visa fee reduction, an exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge and a speedier decision following application.

The offer is open to “care assistant, care worker, carer, home care assistant, home carer and support worker (nursing home).”

The decision was taken as part of efforts to tackle the pandemic challenges.

“Thousands of additional care workers could be recruited to boost the adult social care workforce following temporary changes to the health and care visa to make social care workers, care assistants and home care workers eligible for a 12-month period.

“This will make it quicker, cheaper and easier for social care employers to recruit eligible workers to fill vital gaps.

“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted a range of staff shortages within the social care sector, placing pressures on the existing workforce, despite the incredible and tireless efforts of social care staff.

“This boost follows the recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to make care workers and home carers eligible for the Health and Care visa and add the occupation to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).

“Inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List will stipulate an annual salary minimum of £20,480 for carers to qualify for the Health and Care visa.

“The UK is committed to becoming a high-skilled, high-wage economy and minimum salaries must reflect the professional skills that are required to provide quality care.

“The Health and Care visa will allow applicants and their dependents to benefit from fast-track processing, dedicated resources in processing applications and reduced visa fees.

“The temporary measures are expected to come into effect early next year and will be in place for a minimum of 12 months, providing a much-needed staffing boost while the sector deals with the additional pressures of the pandemic, at which point they will be reviewed.”

On Visa sponsorship, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said, “It is vital we continue to do all we can to protect the social care sector during the pandemic and beyond.

“These measures, together with the series of support packages announced since September, will help us ensure short term sustainability and success for our long-term vision to build social care back better.

“I also urge all care staff yet to do so to come forward to Get Boosted Now to protect themselves and those they care for.

“Care providers who do not already hold a sponsor licence in the Skilled Worker route can prepare to take advantage of the offer by registering for a sponsorship licence ahead of implementation.

“Providers who are new to visa sponsorship will be supported through the process through a series of engagement activities in January and February, to introduce them to the system and find out how to act as a visa sponsor.

“Care workers and carers recruited to the UK will be able to bring their dependents, including partner and children, with the Health and Care visa offering a pathway to settlement should they remain employed and wish to remain in the UK.

On Immigration new plan, Home Secretary Priti Patel MP said, “The care sector is experiencing unprecedented challenges prompted by the pandemic and the changes we’ve made to the health and care visa will bolster the workforce and helping alleviate some of the pressures currently being experienced.

“This is our New Plan for Immigration in action, delivering our commitment to support the NHS and the wider health and care sector by making it easier for health professionals to live and work in the UK.

“The move follows an investment of £465.2 million in supporting recruitment and retention of social care staff through the challenging winter period.

“This is on top of the £500 million for workforce training, qualifications and wellbeing announced as part of the Health and Social Care Levy.

“This funding is in addition to £6 billion committed to councils through un-ringfenced grants to tackle the impact of COVID-19 on their services, including adult social care, with total funding for adult social care over the pandemic coming to over £2.5 billion.

“This follows wider plans to improve social care and fulfil the ten-year vision set out in the adult social care reform white paper – ‘People at the Heart of Care’, which provided details on how over £1 billion for system reform will be spent over the next three years to improve the lives of those who receive care – as well as their families and carers.

“Further details on integration will follow early next year.”

Turkey’s name change to ‘Turkiye’ shows that the world is no longer trying to appease Britain - MSN NEWS

JANUARY 22, 2022

BY  Aimee Meade

Last month, Turkey announced a national rebrand: the country would abandon the anglicised name it’s held for almost a hundred years and publicly go by the title of “Turkiye”.

This decision will primarily impact how foreign nations and publics address the country, as well as the labelling of exported goods. On the domestic front, the government has already made the switch, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs changing its full designation to “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Turkiye”. And, according to reports, the government is now working with the United Nations to organise the logistics of changing its name on a global scale.

Like most policies to come out of President Erdogan’s office in the last six months, the announcement was met with a fiercely polarised response. Proponents have lauded the government’s effort to represent the “culture, civilisation, and values of the Turkish nation in the best way”. Others have cited the country’s homonym — the large bird — as a reason for the change, suggesting that the common name lacks the respect a country deserves. Erdogan’s opponents, on the other hand, have condemned the move as a semantic distraction from the state of the economy at home.

The timing and context of the move means that the name change risks being written off as simply a distraction from a polarised country with economic woes. But as a Brit who has lived in Turkey on and off since 2019, I hope that instead of being viewed within a domestic political battle, the name change is seen as a move for a country looking to be recognised by a more accurate version of its own name.

In this globalised and connected world, countries should not be forced to alter their national titles for the ease of an English-dominated diplomatic landscape. As a Turkish resident, I have witnessed first-hand the consistent and instinctive effort to accommodate the English language, whether that be in the workplace or in a taxi cab. There is no reason that this accommodation should not be mutual, especially in a way as simple as a change in name.

Global reactions to Turkiye’s debut have been muted; this is understandable given the relatively minor alteration to the spelling of the state. But what the change lacks in drama, it makes up for in meaning.

Since its founding in 1923, Turkey — like many countries formed in this time and neighbourhood — has consistently altered its public profile in order to be more compatible, more palatable, to the anglicised diplomatic community. The name change marks a symbolic departure from these efforts.

In many ways, this move was cemented by the deterioration of EU accession talks. At home, this has meant increased spats with Western diplomats, but it’s also meant increased efforts to connect with neighbours in the Balkans through diplomatic and cultural exchanges, more economic partnerships with states in the Persian Gulf, and even heavy investment in producing popular TV shows.

Turkey is of course not the first to change its name in order to participate on the international stage on their own terms. Often, this move is to separate countries from histories of imperialism, racism, and orientalism. A poignant example of this is Mumbai, India which changed its name from Bombay in the 1990s in order to separate itself from its colonial title.

To be clear, while Turkey isn’t a colonised name, it’s not the country’s actual title. Rather, it’s a version of “Turkiye Cumhuriyeti” that was modified for the ease of international audiences. And while countries’ full names are often shortened in colloquial use — and this move will hardly lead to a future in which people are being constantly corrected for calling it “Turkey” — the tweak in its formal spelling is a push for the English version to not be the given standard without question.

In the face of complex diplomatic debates and international crises, therefore, this shift feels like a no brainer. And how countries —particularly in Europe and North America — react to this name change will be revelatory of their willingness to engage in a modern diplomacy that embraces accurate and diverse self-representation. Perhaps it will even inspire other countries too.

Anna Francesca Murphy is a journalist living in Istanbul

FAAN Talks Tough, Bans Untrained Officials From Driving At Airside - INDEPENDENT

JANUARY 22, 2022

LAGOS – In a bid to ensure improved safety at the airside of the nation’s airports, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has restricted drivers without the mandatory airline airside training or receive adequate certification from driving at that point of airport.

FAAN also said that it would no longer take lightly any act of violation of this directive from any organisation in the sector in the interest of safety, urging companies operating in the sector to send their airside personnel who may want to drive vehicles at the airside to its training school for knowledge and appropriate certification.

A statement by Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, the General Manager, Corporate Communication, FAAN, said that the move was to prevent repeat of an incident involving a customs official at the airside of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos. Recall that in late December, an airside mishap was averted at the Lagos airport when a speeding vehicle belonging to Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) had a near collision with a Dana Air plane taxiing to take off on Runway 18L of the airport.

The unfortunate incident occurred barely one week after a landing Max Air jet almost rammed into a malfunctioning car being tested on Runway 18L.

The Dana Air aircraft was taxiing to join Runway 18L for take-off when the speeding car almost rammed into it. The angry pilot was said to have immediately called the Lagos airport control tower to report the incident.

Yakubu stated that with this directive, all airline officials, security agencies, ground handling companies, and other stakeholders are put on notice to ensure that their officials, that have airside related roles, and will need to drive, are sent to FAAN’S training department to undergo this mandatory training before been assigned to duty.

”The authority will no longer take lightly any act of violation of this directive, in the interest of safety,” the statement added.

U.K. Warns Against Non-Essential Travel to Ukraine Over Russia - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 22, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. is advising against non-essential travel to Ukraine, the Foreign Office announced, and British nationals in the country were advised to register their presence. 

The move puts the U.K. in line with other nations in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, including Australia, Canada, and the U.S.

“The situation in Kyiv and other areas outside Donetsk and Luhansk is generally calm. However, events in Ukraine are fast moving. There is continuing uncertainty about Russian intentions,” the Foreign Office said in Saturday’s advisory.  

The agency previously advised against all travel to Donetsk oblast, Luhansk oblast and Crimea.   

Bloomberg News reported Friday that the Biden administration is weighing whether to evacuate family members of diplomats stationed in Ukraine, and that officials at the U.K. foreign office have been told to be ready to move into “crisis mode” at very short notice. 

The U.S. and the U.K. ramped up their warnings over a potential invasion as Russia has amassed more than 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine’s borders even as talks with the Kremlin continue. Moscow has shown no signs of de-escalation. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied it intends to invade Ukraine. 

Ukraine and Russia have been in conflict since Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution that ousted the pro-Moscow president by seizing Crimea. Russia also backed separatists in eastern Ukraine by sending personnel and weapons, helping stoke a conflict that has killed more than 14,000 people.

Lufthansa May Take 40% Stake in ITA Airways: Foglio - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 22, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Lufthansa AG may seek a 40% stake in Alitalia’s successor ITA Airways, Italian newspaper Il Foglio reported, citing unnamed sources.

The plan, which could be announced in coming days, would be subject to European Union approval, the paper said. The two sides are close to agreement on issues including financial consolidation and turning Rome’s Fiumicino airport into a hub for flights to Africa and for part of flights to the U.S., according to the report.

ITA Chairman Alfredo Altavilla said on Jan. 12 that his company aims to pick up the pace to secure an equity partnership by the middle of this year, adding that it was in talks with European and international companies.

British citizenship: the £2m must-have for wealthy foreigners, with few questions asked - TELEGRAPH

JANUARY 22, 2022

Thousands of 'golden visas', issued to people from places such as Russia, China and Kazakhstan, are now under review

By Matt Oliver 

Golden visas issued between 2008 and 2015 were subject to almost no background checks, it is claimed

For the discerning multi-millionaire or billionaire, there are plenty of things a mere £2m will buy. Perhaps the most priceless of all, however, is British citizenship.

Under what is known officially as the tier 1 investment visa - and unofficially as the “golden visa” - applicants who invest this sum in the UK can stay for at least three years.

After five, they gain permanent residence (shortened to just two for £10m) and after the sixth they can secure their own blue passport.

It is seen by the mega-rich as one of the most attractive such schemes to have sprung up globally - but campaigners warn it has made Britain a safe haven for kleptocrats.

Thousands of visas issued to applicants from Russia, China, Kazakhstan, India, Saudi Arabia and other countries are currently under review by the Home Office amid fears they were not vetted properly. 

Transparency watchdog Spotlight on Corruption says the fiasco may have allowed Russian president Vladimir Putin’s cronies to gain footholds in the UK, as well as oligarchs and officials from other countries that may pose corruption and money laundering risks. 

A proposed amendment to the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, could usher in the end of golden visas, while the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee is expected to discuss the issue as part of a new inquiry into dirty money from Russia.

Tom Tugendhat, the committee’s chairman, says MPs are looking at “all ways to defend our interests and partners against Russian aggression” following a recent visit to Ukraine.

“There are many issues to cover, from dirty money to foreign influence, but the most obvious area we need to consider is looking at the golden visa route that has seen many of Putin's allies set up in London,” he says.

First introduced by Gordon Brown’s Labour Government in 2008, in the teeth of the financial crisis, the idea behind golden visas was to attract investors and talented entrepreneurs desperately needed to boost the UK’s struggling economy. More than 12,600 have been issued over the scheme’s lifetime. 

But critics have become increasingly concerned by loopholes and the way the system is perceived abroad. 

Websites now allow the global rich to scan through different citizenships like items on a menu, with each country listed by price and various benefits on offer.

Visitors to Best Citizenships, for example, are told that the UK golden visa scheme is “the fastest in the world”, with a typical application turnaround time of one to three weeks. They are also promised benefits including the “best education and healthcare”, an attractive property market and a passport that is “powerful and respected in the world”.

Dominica, meanwhile, is advertised as the “cheapest”, costing just $100,000, and Grenada is promoted as the “best Caribbean” option at $150,000.

High-profile benefactors of the UK’s visa have included relatives of foreign government officials and a plethora of ultra-wealthy business people.

<img class="responsive lazy-image__img article-body-image__source" src="/content/dam/business/2022/01/21/TELEMMGLPICT000283348475_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqNJjoeBT78QIaYdkJdEY4CnGTJFJS74MYhNY6w3GNbO8.jpeg?imwidth=480" alt=" Izzat Khanim Javadova, the daughter of an Azerbaijani oligarch, has run DJ nights." loading="lazy" width="1080" height="675"/>
Izzat Javadova, a DJ and cousin of the president of Azerbaijan

Those thought to have used the golden visa route have included Izzat Javadova, first cousin of the president of Azerbaijan and Madiyar Ablyazov, the son of an exiled Kazakh politician - among many others.

Javadova, also known as DJ Mikaela Jav, and her husband were targeted by the National Crime Agency which argued her funds were likely to have been obtained through corruption and theft in Azerbaijan. They denied the claims and last year settled with the NCA for £4m, admitting no wrongdoing.

Ablyazov, meanwhile, was issued a golden visa in 2009 after using money provided by his father. Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former Kazakh minister and banker, was alleged to have embezzled billions of pounds of assets in one of the largest ever frauds.

<img class="responsive lazy-image__img article-body-image__source" src="/content/dam/business/2022/01/21/TELEMMGLPICT000282146914_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqOjwtMIBfBvsmIG0UzgZgYLxlL4JJZFr6G2BGlsAngeI.jpeg?imwidth=480" alt="Kazakh businessman and political activist Mukhtar Ablyazov" loading="lazy" width="2500" height="1559"/>
Mukhtar Ablyazov was alleged to have embezzled billions Credit: THOMAS COEX/ AFP

The UK High Court has issued warrants for Mukhtar Ablyazov’s arrest. Two years ago he was granted political asylum in France. Ablyazov claims he is being persecuted by the Kazakh regime.

And, according to a report by Channel 4 News and The Sunday Times in 2019, City lawyers and financial advisers also bragged about their success in securing golden visas for a family member of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the son of a corrupt Thai government minister and Iranian and Iraqi millionaires who were affected by sanctions.

Yet, argues Spotlight on Corruption, golden visas issued between 2008 and 2015 were subject to almost no background checks.

Throughout this time, now known as the “blind faith period”, the Home Office is said to have assumed that banks would check visa holders’ bona fides when they tried to open a bank account.

Banks, however, assumed a successful visa application could be taken as proof that due diligence had already been done - resulting in proper checks not being carried out by anyone. 

Meanwhile, judges at the Court of Appeal warned in April last year that rules for golden visas were “poorly drafted” and some applicants had been able to secure them despite their required investments ultimately ending up in Russia.

Just months later, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) revealed it had shut down a London-based wealth manager, Dolfin Financial, due to a complex scheme that allowed clients to pay just £400,000 rather than the required £2m. 

A report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee separately called for changes, too, warning that many Russians with links to Putin had become “well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth”. 

Lord Wallace of Saltaire, a Liberal Democrat peer, believes the golden visa scheme poses a potential security risk to the UK and is also at odds with the tough stance taken by Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, towards other forms of migration. 

His proposed amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill would tighten up checks on applicants further, or shut the scheme down if this cannot be achieved. 

“By continuing to allow people from non-democratic countries whose wealth has been acquired through political influence or corruption to settle here, we are undermining the quality of British democracy,” he argues.

“If you believe in re-establishing the sovereignty of this country, then the idea of selling citizenship like this undermines the whole principle. It also seems to be a huge anomaly in Priti Patel’s policy to otherwise restrict access to citizenship to those who are entirely clean.”

The Home Office rejects claims that checks were not carried out on golden visa applicants between 2008 and 2015 and says it has reformed the scheme twice to prevent it becoming a conduit for dirty money.

Banks must now carry out due diligence before bank accounts can be opened and applicants must provide evidence for the source of their funds going back for at least two years.

“As part of our work to prevent this route from corruption we are reviewing all Tier 1 investor visas granted before these reforms were made, and will report on our findings in due course,” a spokesman adds. “We have not ruled out making further changes if necessary.”

But Susan Hawley, executive director at Spotlight for Corruption, says there is little evidence so far that the Government is treating the matter with urgency.

“It has been known for a long time that the UK's golden visa regime poses very high risks to our national security,” she says.

“Given these risks, it is astonishing that the Government is in effect sitting on the review that it started four years ago.”

As the scheme continues, many of those granted golden visas since 2015 or earlier are now eligible for full citizenship.

It means, critics argue, that British passports are still up for sale - at least while the offer lasts.


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