Ukraine’s last Prime Minister, the current intermediary Prime Minister and the man likely to be the next Prime Minister have all allegedly been secretly given Austrian passports.
The naming of Serhiy Arbuzov, Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister following the resignation of Mykola Azarov, as well as Azarov himself and Andriy Klyuyev, expected to be named as the next Prime Minister, are the latest names to be revealed in a long list of wealthy foreigners looking to find a refuge where they will not face extradition back home.
Although selling passports is frowned on within the EU, it is not technically illegal and Malta was recently in the spotlight for selling passports for 539,000 GBP (600,000 EUR).
In Austria people who invest in property or business are also eligible to receive passports. The investments are typically made at the regional level and then the local government fast tracks the application.
There is also the chance for anyone who comes into Austria with a significant amount of money of getting a residence permit, which can then later be changed to citizenship under the ‘Privatierslösung’.
The applicants do not need to have any skills, but they need to have a provable income of more than €3,500 a month. That means that this money needs to be paid into a local bank or through the purchase of property.
And with Austria refusing to extradite its citizens to Russia and it’s satellite states like the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, it explains why there has been a flood of applications from the region to gain Austrian citizenship.
Arbuzov, 37, Klyuyev, 49, and Azarov, 66, were named as allegedly having Austrian passports by German Green MEP Rebecca Harms at their weekly European Parliament press briefing.
Azarov is a close ally of President Viktor Yanukovych, whose decision to scrap a key pact with the European Union under Russian pressure caused the latest violence. Azarov resigned as Ukrainian prime minister in a failed bid to defuse the violent crisis the scrapping of the EU pact caused, and apparently fled to Austria right after stepping down.
He reportedly flew to Vienna to join family members by private jet hours after quitting, and planned to stay for a while.
Another example of a wealthy passport holder came when a residency permit was granted to Kazakhstan’s multi-millionaire ambassador to Austria and OSCE representative Rakhat Aliyev, despite the fact that the government quota for applicants had already been reached for the year.
It was rushed through when it was revealed his diplomatic immunity had been lifted, and that he was under an active criminal investigation in his homeland. The request for the passport had been handed out by the council leader in the Austrian district of Horn, who later said he had only done it because the Interior Ministry had ordered him to do so.
At the time Aliyev reportedly had over 100 million euros stashed in Austrian banks.
Speaking at the press conference in German MEP Harms said: “Over the winter I was in Kiev four times. I’m pleased that after the violence Azarov and his people have stepped down. But there is still a real risk that it could collapse into civil war.
“Azarov seems to have gone back to his family estate in Vienna like so many other Ukrainian oligarchs. Like him they have vast business empire’s and property portfolios and many of these politicians also have Austrian passports where they live with their families. That is hard for many people in the Ukraine to understand. Those that were responsible for the violence and the plundering of the land. Those that have put the country under the economic umbrella of Russia feel they can then flee to enjoy the economy of Austria.
“Normal people in the Ukraine have all sorts of restrictions on their opportunities to travel. It’s incredible that the people who are fighting on the streets for European rights can’t travel. Yet those that are beating them and are responsible for the plundering of the country are able not only to leave the country but can get Schengen visas. According to Austrian media, these people have allegedly already for a long time had Austrian passports. That they are Austrian citizens and have been for a long time has shocked me. I therefore don’t understand the restrictions for ordinary Ukrainians. It is essential to find out as soon as possible what money from privatisation and what money from tax loopholes has ended up here with us in the EU. Who is responsible and if Yanukovich does introduce martial law, how can these amounts be frozen?”
Of the Ukrainians alleged to have Austrian passports, Azarov’s son has property in Austria, and his daughter-in-law has a stable of magazines that write about jet-setters, aimed at upmarket readers in the region.
Kluyev is the owner of the company Slav AG and has a 17 hectare mansion in Tulbingerkogel, a village in Lower Austria.
Azurov meanwhile has taken to Facebook to deny the MEP’s claims, saying it was not true that he had ever applied for a non Ukrainian passport. And Arbuzov has also denied the claims through his spokesperson, saying that he only has a Ukrainian passport.