By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – The Government has decided to dump the controversial “passports-for-sale” scheme under which the world’s super-rich were granted Irish
citizenship in return for investment finance.
The decision follows a report from a government-appointed review group that recommended it should not be re-introduced in present economic circumstances, and said that it sometimes operated in a haphazard and
While the report came out against the reintroduction in the present state of the economy, it said the scheme should not be ruled out as an option for the future on the basis of strict conditions.
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“The government has no intention of reviving it,” a Department of Justice spokesman said.
“If it was to be introduced it would be through the Oireachtas and on a statutory basis so that what was involved was quite transparent.”
The cabinet considered the report at its last meeting before breaking for the summer.
The scheme led to Irish citizenship being purchased by millionaires from the US, Hong Kong, Pakistan, the Middle East and former communist bloc states.
It operated between 1989 and 1998 when it was discontinued after allegations of irregularities. The decision to suspend it was strongly criticized by the small industry group, ISME, which said the Government, had “thrown out the baby with the bath water”.
It had attracted about 200 of the super-rich for tax reasons or because they wanted to have an Irish passport for the access it gives to the
One of those who bought a passport in 1994, former US citizen John Dorrance, regularly tops media lists as the richest man in Ireland. His
grandfather invented the process for condensing soup that led to the Campbell empire.
Others who purchased passports include three grandchildren of legendary oil billionaire John Paul Getty and Robert Dart, whose family firm makes polystyrene boxes for the fast food chain, McDonalds.
The scheme only came to wide public notice in 1994 when it emerged that the wealthy Saudi Arabian-based Masri family invested in the family pet food business of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds.
The investment-based naturalization system was set up to create or protect jobs and most of those who were granted passports invested more than the one million punts (1.27 million euros) minimum involved.
The circumstances surrounding the 1990 granting of passports to the wealthy Saudi Arabian Mahfouz family are currently under investigation by a judicial tribunal probing payments to former Taoiseach Charles Haughey.
The government review group set up to examine the scheme took the view that it was inappropriate and unnecessary to have an investment-based system of granting passports in present circumstances.
A spokesman said a majority of the group believed the option of re-introducing the scheme should be kept open while a minority opposed it in principle.
The report recommended that, if the scheme was to be re-introduced, an applicant should have a net worth of 6.35 million euros.
They would be required to invest in Irish industry for at least two years prior to applying and to retain ownership of the investment for at least five years after naturalization.
They would have to undertake to reside in the state for a minimum of 100 days in the two years following naturalization and to have purchased a
substantial Irish residence and undertake to retain it for at least five years.
The review found that before it was discontinued the scheme had brought in investment of 85.85 million euros into industries that employed 2,556 people.