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5 May, 2020 12:40

The rich are shelling out up to $6mn for ‘pandemic passports’ to flee Covid-19's aftershocks while everyone else is left to suffer

The rich are shelling out up to $6mn for ‘pandemic passports’ to flee Covid-19's aftershocks while everyone else is left to suffer

Businesses which arrange for the wealthy to find refuge in low-tax, virus-free havens have seen a surge in applications from those willing to trade money for safety. But is it right, or fair?

Covid-19 affects us all, no matter who you are or where you're from. Well, that's what we've been told, but it's not true. 

Powerful individuals such as Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the blue-blooded Prince Charles and Prince Albert of Monaco, Hollywood icon Tom Hanks, and pop singer Pink have all been struck down by the virus. 

But outside of the public glare, there's a tidal wave of wealthy individuals escaping the contagious clutches of Covid-19. 

Also on rt.com The end of the American dream? Amid Covid-19 crisis, US super-rich flee to BUNKERS in New Zealand

They are doing it by purchasing a ‘pandemic passport’, meaning they are acquiring citizenship or residence in a new country to beat it. 

Henley & Partners, a global leader in ‘citizenship planning’, has seen a surge in its services across the board since the virus got a grip on the world. 

Since January, they have reported a 22 percent increase in applications compared to the same period last year. 

Even more informative is the 42 percent increase in the last quarter of 2019, as worries about a pandemic began to ramp up.

But what are these wealthy people buying? 

Firstly, they are looking to be able to find refuge where Covid-19 hasn't spawned deaths in the tens of thousands and ravaged communities. 

Secondly, they want to find some dry land for their money, somewhere the virus isn't causing economic armageddon. 

Put simply, they want to buy property and move their assets out of nations that are suffering badly.

So none of them are even considering the UK, US, Italy, Spain, Canada or France. 

Even though all are established nations with a strong rule of law, Covid-19 has changed the rules of the game.

Other counties are offering up passports as a way to raise investment that's debt-free, known in the industry as ‘sovereign capital’. 

The bigger boys – those mentioned above – have been left mortally wounded, and they can't offer the type of Covid-19 shelter that other nations can.

Writing a cheque in return for a passport used to be the domain of citizens of Nigeria and Russia, who were worried an underhand manoeuvre might swallow their wealth in the blink of an eye. 

Right now, however, to the surprise of many, a lot of Americans are leaving the ‘the richest country in the world’ after getting a glimpse of how the pandemic has overwhelmed their nation's defences. 

Henley & Partners saw a 700 percent increase in applications alone from Americans in the last quarter of 2019. 

So what safe port in this storm are all these people and their wallets heading for?

The firm has identified Cyprus and Montenegro as the current leading destinations for investors buying real estate-based citizenship. 

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For simple residence by investment, Portugal is the popular choice currently. There's also a solid demand for Maltese citizenship and that of the Caribbean island St Lucia. 

Each has their own regulations on what sort of sum has to be handed over, with very conservative estimates starting at around €100,000 and rising up to sums of €6 million. 

There are those who will say that's just how the chips fall. If you've got the money and you're not breaking any laws, then good luck to you and your kin. 

But we've been down that rabbit hole before, with the likes of Apple and Starbucks paying a pittance in tax in various countries by filtering revenues back to low-tax jurisdictions. Another offender, Amazon, paid £220 million tax last year in the UK on revenues of £10.9 billion – a rate of around two percent. 

Just like them, the pandemic passport purchasers are legally entitled to scamper off to a safe haven.

But they shouldn't be. It's morally bankrupt.

Millions of people are witnessing their livelihoods being torn to shreds and have no choice but to suck it up. Parents are spending sleepless nights wondering how they'll feed and clothe their kids. Students are panicked about how they'll afford to continue their studies.

You appreciate the gravity of all of this when banks, never the most charitable of institutions, start offering customers payment holidays on mortgages and loans.

Taxpayers are being burdened with billions in national debt to keep basic services running.

So many of those disappearing abroad have built their fortunes in countries like America or Britain, or they've used the strong legal systems in France or Spain to ensure they receive all the income they're entitled to, or they've tapped into the educated workforces of Canada or Germany to make them even richer.

But when it suits them, like right now, they disappear off into the sunset without a second thought for what got them into their current position.

Where is the UN or the EU in all of this? Where is the outcry from international organisations?

There has to be legislation to stop what is clear profiteering by smaller countries looking to make an unethical buck.

Why should the rich get a safe haven for their health and bank balances, while ordinary people are left to plummet downwards without a parachute?

As a silver lining, Covid-19 was supposed to unite us all, as we came together to conquer the worst crisis in living memory. But once again, it's a case of us and them.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.