Vanuatu’s Citizenship Commission defends granting citizenship to convicted Australian entrepreneur

Andrew Spira. Photo: NT News

Vanuatu’s Citizenship Commission says convicted Australian entrepreneur cleared the necessary checks before he was granted citizenship and given a Vanuatu passport. 

Andrew Spira was granted citizenship months after his arrest on fraud and drugs charges in Australia but before he was found guilty. 

His case has again raised questions about Vanuatu’s lucrative citizenship-by-investment scheme and comes as the European Commission considers permanently ending Vanuatu’s visa-free access to the region. 

According to the secretary general of Vanuatu’s Citizenship Commission, Allan Liki, Spira cleared several background checks, including from INTERPOL and Vanuatu’s Financial Intelligence Unit. 

“We received from Interpol through the Vanuatu police force an offence against Spira. It was specifically on his passport, that his passport was either lost or stolen, which to us is not categorised as a criminal offence or any other activity as such,” said Liki. 

Vanuatu citizenship can be purchased for around $220,000 (US$133,460) through agents around the world.