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Department finally reveals extent of Immigrant Investor scam.

Although the Department of Enterprise originally did not disclose the number, it has now revealed that all 18 of the 18 applications reviewed in the audit of the Immigrant Investment Programme were found to be deficient.

By J Vivian Cooke.

Further details have emerged about the Department of Justice’s 2019 internal audit of the Immigrant Investment Programme, (IIP), the contents of which were first revealed in Village Magazine’s February/March issue.

Even in the redacted form, the previously unpublished document outlined the serious defects in the operation of the programme. In the judgement of the auditors, the IIP’S ‘Overall Risk Rating’ was “Medium/High Risk” which indicated that, among other things, the governance of the scheme, its compliance and monitoring checks and the unit’s management controls were inadequate to ensure the effective operation of the scheme.


However, the specific results of the audit methodology which were withheld by the Department have now been released.

Shockingly, although the Department originally did not disclose that number, it has now revealed that all 18 of the 18 applications reviewed in the audit were found to be deficient in some respect.

Furthermore, 11 of the 18 files failed to establish that THE funds to be invested were legitimate. Similarly, 12 of those cases did not contain sufficient evidence of background checks performed on the individuals.

Almost two thirds of the files sampled by the audit were shown to be seriously delinquent in as much as they did not comply with the most basic qualifying requirements of the programme.

Original redacted version of the 2019 audit report obtained by Village in    February 2024.

Although closed to new applicants in February 2023 because the department was overwhelmed by the deluge of application from China, pressure from international oversight bodies such as the OECD, Financial Action Task Force and the EU had been mounting for years.

These bodies found schemes such as the IIP were open to abuse leading to high risks of money laundering and tax evasion. One EU report found of the residency by investment programmes examined “Cyprus presents the highest risk, followed by Ireland, and Malta” of abuse.

The report also noted: “In Ireland, a previous CBI – [Citizenship By Investment] – programme attracted wide criticism and was halted in the 1990s, including on the grounds of inadequate checks on the applicants. Criteria for the granting of Irish nationality by investment were not always met by the applicants, fuelling allegations of corruption and favouritism by the government”.

So much for Ireland’s dismal track record with such wheezes.

More concerning is the fact that the outstanding applications will be assessed by the IIP Unit of the Immigration Delivery Service using processes and systems that have been consistently and repeatedly found to be utterly deficient.

As established by Village Magazine in February, key requirements that were the basis of the criticism of both reports remain unimplemented to this day.

The Evaluation Committee responsible for assessing investment proposals was operating without Terms of Reference – the IIP Unit  has still not adopted them. In the absence of Terms of Reference, the functions of the Evaluation Committee cannot be extended to include oversight of the  scheme – a key recommendation to improve delivery.

The programme continues to operate without having a Risk Management Framework document, the adoption of which was identified as an essential  element to the proper conduct of the scheme.

Monitoring and following up of both applicants and their investments continues to be unsatisfactory, as it has always been for the duration of the scheme. The Department makes it clear that the extent of its responsibility is purely to screen applicants and approve proposed investments insofar as they comply with the scheme’s requirements.

After approval, the only monitoring that the Department conducts is to ensure that the money promised is transferred to the appropriate Irish bank account. Anything after that is a matter for someone else. “The IIP Unit is not responsible for managing or overseeing the individual projects themselves…An applicant’s investment in a particular project is a private business transaction between the investor and the project”.

This situation was unacceptable when it was first identified in 2019 and it remain unacceptable today.