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Thu 28 May 2020 02:04 PM

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Controversial Moldovan passport incentive scheme was 'not worth it', says Josef Kleindienst

The now scrapped incentive scheme made some investors eligible to apply for Moldovan citizenship

Controversial Moldovan passport incentive scheme was 'not worth it', says Josef Kleindienst

Kleindienst said that the company has recently altered plans for the Heart of Europe project as a result of higher than expected demand. Image: ITP Media Group

A now-scrapped promotional programme from Dubai-based developer Kleindienst Group that made investors eligible to apply for Moldovan passports was “not worth” the controversy it caused, according to company chairman Josef Kleindienst.

As part of the offer – which was announced in June 2019 – Kleindienst said that investors who invest AED 5 million ($1.36 million) into the company’s Heart of Europe project would be eligible to apply for the Moldovan Citizenship by Investment Program (MCBI), subject to a multi-stage due diligence procedure.

The Moldovan programme, however, was met with widespread criticism from those who saw it as a security risk.

“Beyond the obvious ethical concerns, this poses a serious security risk to both Moldova and the entire Schengen area to which it has visa-free access,” Naomi Hirst, a researcher at anti-corruption group Global Witness, was quoted as saying in the Daily Mail.

Sam Bayat, the owner of Dubai-based Bayat Legal Services, which helps applicants apply for citizenship and residency by investment programmes - including Moldova’s - said that although he believed Kleindienst had a “right” to conduct such a programme, he disagreed with it

“You could do something and [get] an iPhone, or maybe a car, but citizenship? It shouldn’t be exchanged as a price,” he said.

The MCBI scheme, however, did not last long.

“A couple of weeks after we announced it, Moldova suspended its citizenship by investment programme,” Kleindienst told Arabian Business in a recent interview. “Then we put our promotion on hold.”

According to Kleindienst, in retrospect he regrets the initiative.

“If I had known prior that this was such a controversial subject. I’d not have put such a promotion out. It’s not our core business to help people get second passports,” he said. “We saw this [as a way] to attract investors but actually it was not worth it.”

During the interview, Kleindienst said that the company has recently altered plans for the Heart of Europe project as a result of higher than expected demand.

Approximately 100 villas have so far been built on the project’s Sweden and Germany islands, as well as the floating villas around its Honeymoon Island.

As a result of the demand, a previously-planned hospitality project on Switzerland island has been scrapped in favour of additional residential villas.

Once complete, plans for the Heart of Europe call for 15 hotels, 4,000 holiday homes and more than 3,500 hotel keys.

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