Thousands of refugees from Africa and the Middle East risk their lives to reach the shores of Europe and escape conflict and repression.  But for the wealthy there are easier options available. With enough money, it's possible to purchase a EU passport - or at least residence. 

Since 2012, more EU countries – like Malta, Cyprus and Portugal - have begun to generate millions for the public coffers by selling national passports or residence permits through popular 'citizenship-by-investment' and ‘golden visa’ schemes. The customers are almost always kept secret by these governments. So who are these new European citizens? And what are the risks of these kinds of programs?

A cross-border team of journalists obtained secret lists of applicants' names from several countries and found that some countries, like Cyprus and Portugal, sold passports or residence to a wide array of controversial figures.

Team members

Craig Shaw

Craig Shaw is a British (based in Romania) journalist specialising in corruption, human rights, and cross-border investigations.

Micael Pereira

Micael Pereira is a Portuguese journalist based in Lisbon, where he has been a staff writer for the Expresso newspaper since 2006.

Sara Farolfi

Sara Farolfi is an Italian freelance journalist.

Stelios Orphanides

Stelios Orphanides is a Cypriot journalist born in Limassol in 1965, currently works for the Cyprus Mail, Cyprus’ English language daily newspaper.
Grant of €7.550 allocated in March 2016

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