Are you sure?

Russian elite got residency via bond program, report claims

A joint investigation by Hungarian news sites 444.hu and Direkt36.hu, together with Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, has found that under the Hungarian government’s residency bond program, Russian politicians and heads of state-owned companies acquired Hungarian documents that entitle them to reside in Hungary and the European Union.

The son of Sergey Naryshkin, director of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation (SVR RF), as well as Russian businessman Dmitry Borisovich Pavlov, who allegedly had connections to Russian organized crime, were among the clients of Hungary’s Immigration and Asylum Office (BMH). The BMH did not disclose the nature of their relationship.

Members of the Duma, Russiaʼs National Assembly, also took part in the scheme, according to the report. Businessman and Duma member Vladimir Blotskiy confirmed his bond purchase to Novaya Gazeta.

“The procedure lasted approximately three months and the service was provided by Russian Sberbank for their clients. The bank got in touch with a Hungarian law firm and arranged everything,” Blotskiy told Novaya Gazeta during a phone call.

Leaders of Russian energy giants Rosatom and Gazprom were also listed among those who had residence permits for Hungary, but it was not confirmed whether these documents were acquired within the framework of the residency bond program.

The scheme, under which non-Hungarian citizens were effectively able to buy residency rights, was initiated in 2012 by Antal Rogán,  leader of the Fidesz parliamentary group from 2012 to 2015, since then minister of the Prime Ministerʼs Cabinet Office. Almost 20,000 residency permits were issued between 2013 and 2017. The government of Hungary claims that all the applicants had undergone security vetting and none was found to be a risk to national security. 

The full report is available in both Hungarian and English here.

Opposition calls for committee hearing

According to online news portal Hungary Today, reporting via state news agency MTI, opposition parties Párbeszéd and LMP have called for the convening of Parliament’s National Security Committee in connection with the reports on the residency bond scheme.

In addition, the opposition Democratic Coalition has said it would turn to the European Commission over the bond scheme, citing security concerns.

“It constitutes a national security risk that the government allowed terrorists, criminals and spies to enter into Hungary’s and the EU’s territory,” Zsolt Gréczy, the party’s group leader, was cited by Hungary Today as saying at a press conference, adding that “the Fidesz government’s scheme benefited the chief of Russian intelligence and his family members and one of the key figures of the Russian mafia.”

Under the scheme running from the summer of 2013 until March 2017, foreign nationals who bought securities from a licensed agent  backed by the residency bonds could apply in an accelerated procedure for permanent residency in Hungary. The threshold for the residency bond purchase was set at EUR 250,000 early in the scheme and raised to EUR 300,000 later on.

The residency bond scheme was discontinued at the end of March 2017.