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An investigation found that some Bulgarian government officials have been selling fake citizenship documents to foreigners.
The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), discovered that 114 criminals on its wanted list had Bulgarian passports. Hence, the organization began investigating in Bulgaria.
According to the investigation, the perpetrators sold fake certificates to foreign passport applicants at £4,445 (more than $5,600) each. The certificates indicate that the applicants have Bulgarian ancestry, thus making them eligible for a Bulgarian passport.
The police found that the sale of fake documents drastically increased following Bulgaria’s inclusion in the European Union (EU). In the previous decade, around 115,000 people were granted Bulgarian citizenship due to the fake documents. Authorities have noted that these people did not stay in Bulgaria, but instead migrated to more affluent EU countries. This led authorities to conclude that the primary reason behind the surge in document and passport fraud is the EU’s freedom of movement policy.
The freedom of movement policy allows citizens of any member nation to easily migrate to other EU nations. Thus, the fake citizens can use their passports to get residence and employment anywhere in the EU.
Aside from Bulgaria, other EU member countries were also found to be prone to citizenship scams. For instance, Cyprus has a “golden passport” program that lets foreigners who invest in the country obtain a Cypriot passport. Since 2013, around 3,300 foreigners have gained entry to the EU through this program. While it is completely legal, there is fear that the scheme is being used by unscrupulous individuals and criminals to gain access to the EU.