ATHENS – Shadowy real estate operations and agents tied to money laundering and tax evasion are reportedly working in Greece to lure wealthy foreign investors with promises of getting them Golden Visa residency permits and European Union passports, undercutting the scheme aimed at bringing in more money for the country.
The dubious companies lack solvency and couldn’t turn over as many as 800 properties bought by the investors, mostly Chinese, because the money given them wasn’t available, Vaggelis Kteniadis, Chairman of property development company V2 Development told Kathimerini.
Those businesses were said to have been operating in Greece the last couple of years, mostly run by Chinese or Cypriots, were no report on why or if they being investigated or prosecuted or if they have the proper licenses.
Property market professionals with expertise in the Golden Visa program say that those companies operate outside the law and are giving Greece a bad reputation, leading wealthy foreigners to turn to other countries for their EU passports and residencies.
The newspaper said the people and companies who took money but didn’t deliver the properties to investors were unable to do so because their bank accounts have been frozen by order of the tax authorities or are being investigated for possible money laundering.
They were active in other countries, such as Cyprus, Spain and Portugal, before arriving in Greece. They typically approach other companies with the necessary clientele (i.e. interested buyers) and attempt to promote their properties to them, the report said of their methods.
But they don’t own the properties they advertise but then try to obtain them to resell, using small deposits but then taking bigger deposits from investors, also taking off the market large amounts of apartments and homes, further distorting the real estate market.
Much of this is happening in the heart of Athens and with the Golden Visa scheme leading to many wealthy foreigners using their newly-acquired properties – after forcing out the Greeks who lived there – for short-term rentals such as Airbnb, also driving up rental costs and changing the character of neighborhoods across the city.