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News 24 Jun 15

Montenegro Revives Plan to Sell Passports to Investors

Ministry says foreigners will be able to obtain citizenship in return for directly investing in the undeveloped north of the country - although when the offer will begin remains unclear

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica

Montenegro's government plans to offer citizenship to foreign investors who are willing to invest money in the undeveloped north of the country, media reported on Tuesday.

The Tourism Ministry is preparing an "economic citizenship" package designed for foreign investors but has not specified a date when the scheme will begin.

In 2010, the government announced initial plans to sell passports to "renowned businessmen of credible reputation" if they invested at least half a milion euros.

But the project had to be suspended until the measure was harmonised with European Union regulations.

The daily newspaper Vijesti reported that the idea for "selling passports" is supported by the country's Foreign Investors Council and the Chamber of Commerce.

Similar programmes have been introduced by Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Malta, The Netherlands and Spain, allowing direct citizenship by investment or routes to citizenship for wealthy investors.

Concerns have been raised about transparency and accountability, however.

"We believe the new concept of the program for Montenegro should be based primarily on the development of the northern region," the ministry said.

Several foreign businessmen have already obtained Montenegrin citizenship, including ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and former Palestinian minister Mohammed Dahlan, who is suspected of embezzling hundreds of millions of state funds in his home country.

Nathaniel Rothschild, son of the famous banking dynasty and one of the financiers of the Porto Montenegro development in the resort of Tivat, has held a Montenegrin passport since 2011.

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