€179m from Government 'cash for visas' scheme distributed to investment funds

€179m from Government 'cash for visas' scheme distributed to investment funds

Real estate investment trusts were among those to benefit from the "cash for visas" scheme. Picture: Pexels

A Government "cash for visas" scheme has distributed €179 million to investment funds since it was established in 2012.

About a quarter of that figure has been given to mixed investments, bonds and real estate investment trusts (REITs).

Last week new legislation was introduced to limit the ability of REITs to bulk-buy new housing developments amid public outcry that the funds were pushing first-time buyers out of the market.

The Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) offers residency visas of an initial five years to foreign investors and their families in exchange for a donation of no less than €1 million.

The money is then distributed to projects that are "beneficial for Ireland, generate or sustain employment and are generally in the public interest", according to the Department of Justice.

The programme, launched in 2012 as a revenue-raising measure following the recession, has raised €862.5m from more than 1,000 investors since then, figures released to the PA news agency show.

Of that, 21% or €179m has been given to investment funds.

A breakdown provided by the Department of Justice, which oversees the programmes, said about 15% of total funding has been given to investment funds, with 5% going to mixed investments, bonds and REITs.

Social housing projects

The figures show that the largest share of funding, €272m or 32%, was given to social housing projects.

Investment funds took the second-biggest slice, with €179m, or 21% of total revenue raised under the scheme.

Nursing homes received €169m, or 21%, the hospitality and tourism sector took €108.4m, or 12%, while €38.9m, or 5% went to other property and housing developments, €35.5m, or 4%, to healthcare, €24m, or 3%, to education and €35.9m, or 4% to projects described as "other".

The Department of Justice declined to release information on specific organisations which have benefited from the programme on the grounds that it was commercially sensitive.

On the distribution of money to investment funds, a department spokesman said: "The monies invested by the fund on behalf of IIP applicants must be invested in a manner consistent with the programme objectives, with investment in nursing homes, social housing and hospitality projects also featuring within the funds category.

"All funds must be invested in Ireland and must represent equity stakes in Irish registered companies that are not quoted on any stock exchange.

"In addition, the funds and fund managers must be regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland to conduct business in Ireland."

Since its establishment, the IIP has approved applications from 1,088 Chinese investors, 21 from the US, seven from Vietnam, four from Saudi Arabia and 42 from "the rest of the world", the department said. Its website says it is "enhancing the due diligences processes" around the programme, in areas including money laundering and politically exposed persons (PEPs).

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