The fastest way to jail without being guilty

Since the termination of the Bulgarian citizenship by investment program earlier this year, we receive more and more complaints from people who have been lured into shady citizenship schemes.

Without any doubt, the most widespread scheme is the donation citizenship scheme.

Unfortunately, the investors, or rather the donors, who have participated in these schemes will not only have their privileges cancelled, but they will be most certainly criminally prosecuted. At least, this is the firmly declared intention of the new Bulgarian parliament and government.

To cement these intentions, the parliament voted certain legal texts that require the Agency for National Security to perform in-depth checks of the investment applications. The goal of the authorities is to identify the bogus applications and to prosecute the perpetrators. Any citizenships that have been granted will be revoked. For this reason, additional legal options were added in the citizenship law.

Unfortunately for all participants in “donation” schemes, the Prosecutor’s office will act according to the provisions of the penal code. As the actions have been done in Bulgaria, the perpetrators will be prosecuted, even if they are foreigners and/or are living abroad.

Residence and citizenship for donation

One thing must be very clear from the very beginning:

Bulgarian citizenship and residence have never been available in return for donation! The very idea of donation for citizenship/residence is legally absurd, in the framework of the Bulgarian values, legislation and Constitution.

Bulgarian residence was awarded to those who invested at least one million BGN in certain financial products, such as government bonds. From 2021, investments in ETFs were also included in the citizenship law. Citizenship eligibility could be achieved with an additional investment of another one million BGN (or more).

If one hasn’t invested as per the legal requirements, then these requirements have not been met. If residence or citizenship is obtained for “donation”, then it will be cancelled.

Things to be aware of, that you may have done, during your application

Below are the main red flags that you should be warned about. If you have ever done any of the following, it is extremely likely that you have participated in an illegal scheme:

  • You have been told that you participate in residence or citizenship by donation scheme;
  • You have transferred the investment/donation to an account that is not under your name. Be especially concerned if you have:
    1. transferred money to locations in Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Latvia, Lithuania, Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai;
    2. paid money to “Insurance company” or any other “investment” or “special purpose entity”;
    3. paid money to an account of an entity that you don’t have legal contract with and is different from your agent who instructed you to pay there;
  • If you have been shown ultra complicated schemes, explaining how your donation will be used by, for example, an investment company to buy real estate that will generate rental income that will pay interest that will be routed through an insurance company and so forth. If any of this mambo jambo sounds familiar, then please read our recommendations at the end of this article and act immediately by contacting the authorities.

Criminal prosecution in Bulgaria and the role of Interpol

It is hard to foresee what the actions of the prosecution will be and how they will draw the indictment acts. From our point of view, the following articles of the penal code may be applied:

  • art. 313 false declaration – up to 3 years imprisonment;
  • art. 311 false documentation by officials – up to 5 years;
  • art. 308 false documentation of official document – up to 3 years;
  • art. 209 fraud – from 1 to 6 years.

Of course, these are only preliminary guesses and the exact indictments will depend on the prosecutor’s office and will need to be justified in the court.

As the fight against the circumvention of the legal “golden passports” schemes is led by the EU and the USA, the role of Interpol will be very important. We think that some or even most of the schemes may have been organized by foreign or international perpetrators. They, along with their victims (the “donation investors”) ,may very soon be brought to Bulgaria to face justice.

If you are victim of a donation scheme

If you have been misled to believe that you can obtain Bulgarian permanent residence or citizenship by means of donation, we urge you to act immediately. We urge you to contact the law enforcement authorities in Bulgaria, either directly or through a trusted lawyer in Bulgaria.

If you are one step ahead, the authorities will understand that you are a victim, rather than perpetrator. And this is extremely important in an eventual trial in Bulgaria. Not only you will have much, much higher chances of being acquitted, but you will spare yourself the humiliation of being forcefully brought to Bulgaria for trial.

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