Almost 1,100 Chinese citizens have paid up to €1 million each into Irish social housing, nursing home and other projects, making their country the biggest player in a Government cash-for-residency scheme.
Department of Justice figures show that since 2012 non-EU citizens have given €826.5 million to businesses and charities here in return for the right to live in the Republic under the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP).
Chinese citizens accounted for 1,088 individual investors in the Republic from a total of 1,166 since the start of the programme. The US was next with 21, Vietnam was third with seven, Saudi Arabia was fourth with four individuals while 42 contributors came from the rest of the world.
Under the IIP, non-EU citizens and their families get the right to live in the Republic in return for investing €1 million in companies operating in specified industries, or donating six-figure sums to charity.
The department did not name any organisation that benefitted from the scheme. However, property business Bartra, controlled by developer Richard Barrett, recently confirmed that it has raised cash for social housing and nursing homes through the IIP, aiding 200 Chinese citizens to gain residency rights.
The Government launched the scheme at the low point of a recession in 2012 to lure investment to the Republic.
Of the total cash raised, €249 million went to building social housing, €165 million to nursing homes and €108 million to hospitality and tourism businesses.
While these three industries accounted for more than half of all investments, the Department of Justice said that an independent evaluation committee considers projects across a range of areas “which are aligned with Government policy”.
Investors paid over €1.5 million in 2012, the following year that rose to €12.2 million, but slipped back to €4.4 million in 2014 before hitting €38.8 million in 2015.
In 2017 the IIP raised €253.7 million, the highest ever sum. The total then fell to €139.75 million in 2018 but rose to €209.3 million in 2019. Last year, despite Covid-19, investors paid €184.6 million in return for residency rights here.
Investors must be of good character, have a net worth of at least €2 million and contribute a minimum of €1 million to Irish projects to qualify. Charitable donations can be less than this figure.
The department says it has introduced extra checks to ensure investors are not “politically exposed persons” and to eliminate any need for tax evasion. It also shares information with EU bodies on citizenship and residency by investment.