My commentary to the article "The Truth About Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment – An Expert Panel Comments", published in the Investment Migration Insider

fake news
"The choice between the Truth and a Lie is Silence. Instead of Lying to Me, please choose Silence." - Ellen J Barrier

Alexander Dobrinov
by Alexander Dobrinov
co-founder at VD&A
Everyday, I and my colleagues read news, comments and articles about the Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment Program (AKA "CIP"). Most of those, if not all of them, we consider to be delusive, misleading and can be even labelled as "fake news". I have been always very reluctant to use this term, but in some cases, it is really hard to substitute it. Some time ago I told to the eb5 investors that "There is not a single piece of information in the mass media about the (Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment) program that is up to date and correct". Unfortunately, my statement is being cemented with each passing day.

A prime example for delusive, or even "fake news", is the referenced above article in the Investment Migration Insider. So, let’s analyse what it is all about.

First of all, before I will be branded as "biased", I have to give credit to the author of the article for his effort to collect information from multiple sources. The other credit that the author gets from me is for his valid questions (although the first and the last questions are virtually the same) he puts on the table right at the start, namely:

  • Does the Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment have a sound legal basis?
  • Are there cases of investors who have successfully obtained citizenship in Bulgaria through the program?
  • Is it correct to define the Bulgarian fast-track citizenship program as a citizenship by investment program, as many service providers do?
  • Does it have official sanction from the Bulgarian government, so it can be considered to be a legitimate citizenship by investment program?

Unfortunately, all credits end here.


Good laws don’t need advertisement - they serve the people anyway!

The Bulgarian expertise

The author starts by quoting Ms Raia Petkova – Bulgarian citizenship consultant, who explains the procedure for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship through investment quite professionally. She points correctly to the legal basis of the program, namely the Law for the foreigners in Republic of Bulgaria and the Law for the Bulgarian Citizenship (although the author references these laws differently). So far so good.

The initial delusion - any "Citizenship by Investment Program" should be also a "Passport for Sale" scheme

But then the author suddenly makes a weird and unsupported conclusion, by stating that "although the legal basis of the Bulgarian program appears to be sound, that doesn’t make it a citizenship by investment program (?)". And the author goes even further by trying to explain why, namely, because while "government officials from the Caribbean and Mediterranean CIP-countries regularly make public statements and actively work to promote investor migration to their jurisdictions, Bulgarian officialdom appears to be leaving the marketing of their solution to mostly to private sector companies." (so no marketing by the government – no CIP?). While this statement is 100% correct, it is in no way undermining the Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment program. On the contrary - the lack of official marketing and promotion of the Bulgarian CIP is only due to the fact that the Bulgarian government doesn’t charge the citizenship candidate exorbitant fees, called "donation", "tax", or even "establishing a financial link with the country", as is the case with all other jurisdictions.

The reality - the difference between the "Passport for Sale" schemes and the "Bulgarian CIP"

The Bulgarian CIP is the only program in the world that is not a "Passport for Sale" scheme. And this is exactly the reason why it isn’t being marketed on official level. Without financial benefit to the Bulgarian state, why would one be expecting official (and expensive) promotion of the CIP, to be paid from the pocket of the Bulgarian taxpayer? The Bulgarian CIP is much more than a CIP – it is a Bulgarian law, fully backed by the EU, something that stands above all programs.

Let me give a simple illustration – each country has a traffic laws that set the rules about how can one obtain driving license for example. Do we expect the governments to publicly promote the driving license courses and exams? Promotion takes place only when there is profit to be made. In fact, the Bulgarian CIP is the only Citizenship by Investment program that is being backed by the European Commission and the European Parliament. Both the Maltese and the Cypriot CIP (the only other EU CIP) are being harshly criticized by the EU officials and are branded as "passport for sale" schemes – something the EU is strongly opposing.

The author also states, further in his article, that the Bulgarian CIP doesn’t have a webpage – does it have to? Do the governments around the world have webpages about their driving lessons and exams? Do they have webpage describing all their laws (there are hundred, even thousands of laws in each developed country)?

So basically, according to the author (or at least this is what I feel after reading his article), a CIP has to be actively promoted by the government, marketed and advertised through a webpage, as otherwise, the program will be not credible. In fact, according to the article, only the controversial and strongly opposed by the EU authorities "Passport for Sale" schemes would qualify to be valid CIP.

The first strike on the Bulgarian CIP – using the Pakistani "expertise"

Next, the author abandons the Bulgarian consultants’ expertise and heads straight to Pakistan, to quote "Dr. Hussain Farooq, President of HF Corporation, a CBI consultancy", a gentleman I don’t have the honor to neither know nor to have heard of (nor of his consultancy firm). Probably the author is trying to suggest to its readers that someone from Pakistan is better aware of the Bulgarian legislation than the local Bulgarian consultants. I don’t want to argue with such beliefs, but I am still waiting to hear about Bulgarian consultant analyzing the laws of Pakistan.

So, the said Dr. Farooq states that "Bulgaria offers a residence program that could lead to citizenship. It may, technically, not be right to call it a citizenship by investment program. However, we often read and hear about improper marketing of such programs by some companies". Let us make one thing absolutely clear - it is not a could, it is a will - the statement is so delusive that it doesn’t even deserve to be commented on. The consultant from Asia goes even further and compares the Bulgarian CIP with the residency (residency, not citizenship!) programs of countries, such as Austria, Portugal and Ireland. These are all countries that don’t provide investment citizenship at all (The only CIP in the EU are the ones of Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta). An old saying springs to mind in such cases - "Let the cobbler stick to his last".

The second strike - from a source, who "prefers not to be named"!

But if you think the above is outrageous, wait to see what follows. The author goes further into his delusive journey, by quoting a, read carefully, "an investment migration firm based in Europe who prefers not to be named"(!!!). This mysterious European agent says that he has "not heard about any successful cases where clients gained citizenship in 2 years". First of all, when handled correctly, the term for obtaining investment citizenship in Bulgaria should be no more than 18 months. But then the secret agent clarifies his reason for not believing in the Bulgarian CIP, namely by wondering - "why would any country in the EU be giving away citizenship just by someone investing in government bonds for 500 000 EUR? What is the advantage of such possibility for the country?".

And with the above statement, all the pieces come together; the complete lack of knowledge of virtually all foreign agents of the Bulgarian CIP and even more importantly – the disbelief of the these agents that a EU country may have a CIP that is not a "Passport for Sale" scheme. How sad, isn’t it...

An epilogue

The author ends his article, which we urge you to read carefully, by mainly analyzing the above facts.

Fake news is fake news. I can’t judge whether the article in Investment Migration Insider qualifies as such or is only the result of the poor understanding of the Bulgarian CIP by the author. I will let the readers decide for themselves. If anyone, especially the author of the original article or the people quoted in my commentary, disagree with my conclusions, I will be more than happy to reply to all comments and suggestions, which I kindly ask you to send to comments@bglaw.eu.