Charities charged for donations under Irish residency scheme

Finders’ fees not allowed in Immigrant Investor Programme, department warns

Charities have been asked to pay agents thousands to secure donations of €500,000 from foreign multimillionaires seeking Irish residency, as part of a State-run programme.

The payments have been sought as part of a programme under which wealthy people from outside the European Economic Area can get Irish residency in return for making substantial commercial investments or a €500,000 charitable donation. Most applicants are Chinese.

In a notice on the website of the Department of Justice and Equality, the unit that operates the Immigrant Investor Programme said registered charities had been asked to make payments to third parties in order to secure donations.

The payments were sought by way of finders’ fees, consultancy and other such payments. “In some cases this may be by way of a deduction from the endowment itself or in the form of a separate payment by the registered charity.”


Fundraising mechanism

Such payments are not in compliance with the scheme, the notice said. The full amount of the donation had to go to the purpose for which it was donated. “A separate payment to an agent by a charity is not permitted.”

However, David Hall, of the Irish Mortgage Holders' Association, said the department misunderstood how fundraising works.

He said five Chinese investors had agreed to put €2 million into the charity he founded, ICare Housing, as part of an application currently with the department. The money would be used for social housing.

This application does not involve an agent fee but other applications being looked at by the charity would, he said.

“Fundraising enterprises go to charities all the time and say, we’ll organise a ball for you, in return for a fee,” he said.

The immigration service has contacted the Charities Regulator to say charities must not make payments in order to secure donations.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent