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The Billionaires who Bought a Second Passport

According to the Forbes Billionaire list, more than 10% of the world’s billionaires are expats, and many of them hold multiple citizenships. The citizenship of private people is rarely public knowledge, so we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. 

Residence and Citizenship planning has become a new “must” in elite circles. In emerging countries, it offers protection against civil unrest and currency depreciation. For those in the business world, a second passport opens lucrative doors. A passport with a lot of travel restrictions will inevitably constrain its holders’ ability to conduct business on a global scale.

You obviously don’t have to be a billionaire to look for a better passport or a second residence in a safe and stable country. Good second passport programs start at USD 100,000, and many wealthy families simply get a second passport so they can travel for leisure. 

Residence & Citizenship planning also involves building wealth for the next generation. It makes financial sense when it’s time to think about inheritance. Taxation is also another reason why a second residence makes financial sense. In the last few years, many Americans have picked up a second citizenship. 

This trend was perhaps accentuated by social unrest back home, but it’s traditionally part of the process of estate planning. The US taxes its citizens wherever they live. To eliminate their tax liability, Americans must forfeit their citizenship and go through the Exit Tax process. Given the level of taxation imposed on inheritance in the US, many have already taken this step. Now that it seems evident that taxes will be raised sooner or later to compensate for the pandemic, many Americans are jumping ship.

What seems like a new thing for Americans has long been popular in the rest of the world. Whether it’s Germans going to Switzerland or Chinese going to Hong Kong, so many have picked up new citizenships that it’s impossible to count. Given that many countries do not allow dual citizenship, many people keep it a secret. Making a list of billionaires that have gained a second citizenship via a Residence by Investment program would be a big job. Many of them have gained citizenship in places like Canada, the USA, or the UK, so we’ve compiled a list of those that we know have gained it via a Citizenship by Investment program.

Citizenship by Investment, or CBI, enables foreigners to become naturalized without any prior residence in exchange for a specific investment in a country. Out of the dozen countries that offer CBI programs, only 3 have naturalized billionaires.

Cyprus

There are so many new naturalized billionaires in Cyprus that Forbes can’t keep track of them all. Cyprus has been particularly attractive to Russian and Israeli billionaires. One of them, Nikita Mishin, dropped off the Forbes list this year. But the addition of Eric Schmidt of Google means the island has its newest richest man. This might be the country’s last new billionaire for some time. The Cyprus Economic Citizenship program was suspended in the summer of 2020 for review. It’s expected to return in 2021.

Eric Schmidt

Net worth: $13.2B
Age: 64
Other Citizenship: USA

Eric Schmidt was Google CEO from 2001 to 2011. Until 2019, he was on the board of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

John Fredriksen

Net worth: $9.6B
Age: 75
Other Citizenship: Norway

Notorious John Fredriksen made his fame and fortune in the 1980s by buying crude oil from Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. Today he owns a shipping empire.

Alexander Abramov

Net worth: $5.5B
Age: 55
Other Citizenship: Russia

Alexander Abramov made his money in steel and mining. He is the chairman of Evraz, a steel company. In 2017, with Roman Abramovich, he bought 24.5% of the largest Russian railway operator.

Teddy Sagi

Net worth: $4.5B
Age: 48
Other Citizenship: Israel

Teddy Sagi made his fortune in gambling and software. He founded Playtech in 1999. The firm trades on the London stock market. In 2016, he sold 12% of Playtech for close to $400m.

Alexander Ponomarenko

Net worth: $3.3B
Age: 55
Other Citizenship: Russia

Ponomarenko is the chairman of Sheremetyevo, Russia’s largest airport. His business activities include real estate, banking and logistics.

Yakir Gabay

Net worth: $3.2B
Age: 53
Other Citizenship: Israel

Yakir Gabay made his fortune in Israel with Bank Leumi before investing around the world. His business activities now consist of real estate investments.

Oleg Deripaska

Net worth: $2.3B
Age: 52
Other Citizenship: Russia

Deripaska made his fortune with Basic Element, an industrial group with diverse interests including mining and construction.

Ihor Kolomoysky

Net worth: $1B
Age: 57
Other Citizenship: Ukraine

Kolomoysky, with fellow Ukrainian Boholyubov, founded PrivateBank in the ’90s. It’s one of the largest banks in Ukraine.

Malta

Malta’s Exceptional Investor Naturalisation (MEIN) replaced the previous Malta Individual Investor Programme (MIIP) in 2020. The Malta Citizenship by Investment program is relatively new compared to the other two. But it has already garnered a lot of popularity and prestige. It’s the only CBI program whose passport allows visa-free travel to the US and freedom of movement in the European Union. That makes  Malta’s la crème de la crème of passport programs. The Malta EIN is a temporary economic program that sunsets if not renewed every few years.

Malta has added many billionaires to its ranks, but also lost a few. Boris Iosifovich Mints dropped off the Forbes list in 2019, as did Christopher Chandler in 2014.

Liu Zhongtian

Net worth: $2.5B
Age: 56
Other Citizenship: China

Liu Zhongtian is the founder and chairman of the Hong Kong aluminum manufacturer Zhongwang Holdings. He left his position in 2017 due to “personal health reasons”.

Arkady Yurievich Volozh

Net worth: $1.2B
Age:56
Other Citizenship: Russia
 
Volozh is the co-founder of Yandex, the Russian equivalent of Google.

St Kitts & Nevis

St Kitts & Nevis has the world’s oldest running Citizenship by Investment program. Its tax-free environment has made it particularly attractive to wealthy applicants looking for a second citizenship or to drop off their American one. The program now starts at only $100,000.  

In 2019, its previous richest national, Jacky Xu, dropped off the Forbes list.

Pavel Durov

Net worth: $3.4B
Age: 35
Other Citizenship: Russia

Pavel Durov is the tech genius behind Telegram and Russian social media channel VK. He and his brother Nikolai live in Dubai.

Myron Wentz

Net worth: $1.1B
Age: 81
Other Citizenship: USA (previous)

Myron Wentz renounced his American citizenship in the mid-1990s. He is the founder of USANA, a wellbeing company traded on the NYSE.

Wu Xu

Net worth: $1.1B
Other Citizenship: China (previous)

Wu Xu is the founder of Chongqing real estate giant Sincere Holding Group. Wu worked at state-run construction businesses before starting his own firm.

The Golden Capitalist is powered by Global RCG, the leading provider of mobility assets in America. Reach out if you want to know more about 2nd residence & citizenship.

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Written by Editor

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