In November 2016, Hollywood star Steven Seagal became the latest celebrity to be personally handed a Russian passport by that country’s president, Mr. Vladimir Putin. Seagal joins French movie legend Gerard Depardieu and boxing great Roy Jones Jr. who have also taken out Russian citizenship and received a passport from Putin.

While Wladimir Putin remains “Public Enemy no.1” to many Western politicians and the UK and US medias, he has plenty of admirers, and not only in Russia. US president-elect Donald Trump has been something of a fan of Putin for many years, and as far back as 2007, in an interview with CNN’s Larry King said:

“Look at Putin, what he’s doing with Russia, I mean, you know, what’s going on over there. I mean this guy has done, whether you like him or don’t like him, he’s doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia period.”

And as recently as 2015 Trump said this: “I think I’d get along very well with Vladimir Putin. I just think so.”

The signs are there that for the first time since Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin were drinking buddies, Donald Trump might just be the president who brings Russia in from the cold, which would be great news for the Russian economy, not to mention its long-suffering citizens.

 

Russian Citizenship by Investment Program

In the meantime, the Russian government has attempted to boost its economy by introducing its own Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program, which they unveiled in 2015, becoming the first World Power to do so. Foreign high net-worth investors can now acquire Russian citizenship and a passport either by donating to a charity specified by the Russian Government, or by an investment purchase. The benefits of this are mutual: Russia receives the immediate effect of new investment (which ideally will develop into a long and prosperous relationship with said new investor), while the investor, many of whom hail from China and other Asian nations, gets citizenship and a passport to one of the world’s great nations, and one which could – Trump willing – be on the verge of an economic boom.

CBI was first introduced in the Caribbean by St Kitts and Nevis, and it remains a vital part of that nation’s economy. The practice has since been adopted by their Caribbean neighbors Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada and Saint Lucia, and is mainly used by wealthy investors looking to capitalize on the Caribbean’s legendary reputation as a tax haven.
CBI is also becoming increasingly popular in Europe, with high net-worth individuals from historically restrictive parts of the world like Asia, Africa and the Middle East only too keen to invest in country that will provide them with an EU passport, and enjoy the freedom and opportunities that come with it. EU countries with CBI programs include Austria, Belgium, Greece, Hungary and Malta.

Of course, not every foreigner who wants Russian citizenship has to partake in a CBI program to receive it. In the past three years, three high-profile celebrities from the worlds of sport and cinema have been awarded a Russian passport in a gesture of gratitude for the solidarity they have shown president Putin and his country. They are heavyweight French actor Gerard Depardieu, boxing great Roy Jones Jr. and Hollywood action star Steven Seagal.

 

Steven Seagal

In November 2016 Steven Seagal was made a Russian citizen and personally handed his new passport by Russian president Vladimir Putin in an informal ceremony at the Kremlin. Seagal simply said “Thank you very much” In Russian. Putin later said that he hoped the gesture showed a “normalization” of strained relations with Washington.

While the name Steven Seagal might not mean much to the younger generation, older movie fans (40+) will be aware of Seagal from his time during the late-1980s to the mid-1990s when he was one of the world’s biggest box-office draws, with a string of hits including Nico, Hard To Kill, Out For Justice, Under Siege and Executive Decision.

Unlike other martial arts actors whose on-screen antics looked too farfetched to be taken seriously, Seagal’s shtick was that he was indeed the “Real McCoy”, someone who walked it like they talked it. A seventh-Dan black belt in aikido, the Japanese martial art that primarily involves blocking and countering and using an adversary’s aggression – and physical momentum – against them, Seagal became so skilled that he opened his own aikido school in Japan. He parlayed those skills into a successful career as a bodyguard, eventually marrying one of his clients, actress Kelly Le Brock (The Woman In Red, Weird Science). Through her, Seagal got his start in the movies, and for the best part of a decade, he rode the Hollywood wave of huge success and superstardom.

In recent years, Seagal’s body of work has been less impressive, and he has starred in a string of low-budget direct-to-video flicks that have hardly bolstered his reputation. His weight has soared, his hair and beard seem to become blacker by the year, and in truth he has become something of a parody of himself, but he remains one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world. And despite being 64 and in less than stellar condition, he still looks capable of laying out a bunch of bad guys single handedly.

 

Gerard Depardieu

Since the 1970s the name Gerard Depardieu has been synonymous with great acting, primarily in French movies. Twice a Cesar Award winner for Best Actor – the French equivalent of the BAFTA or Oscar, Depardieu drew rave reviews in such French classics as The Last Metro, The Return of Martin Guerre, Jean de Florette and Cyrano de Bergerac. He also won a Golden Globe for his role in the US box-office hit Green Card with Andie McDowell (pictured). Depardieu ranks alongside the likes of Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins and Robert De Niro (whom he co-starred with in the movie 1900) as one of the genuine screen heavyweights of the past 40 years.

The tragic death of his eldest son Guillaume in 2008 led to Depardieu sliding into depression and becoming disillusioned with France. He handed back his French passport in 2012 and moved to Belgium, and in 2013 , Vladimir Putin signed an Executive Order granting him Russian citizenship. The two appeared to get along famously, and in his autobiography, Depardieu said Putin “immediately liked my hooligan side.”

Now 67, Depardieu remains as high-profile and as controversial as ever. He once boasted that he could “drink 14 bottles of wine a day”, although he now claims sobriety. He is still acting up a storm – his 2014 film Welcome To New York saw Depardieu play a character named Devereaux who is a French politician and presidential candidate accused of raping a maid, a plot clearly based on the life of disgraced French politician and former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In a tour-de-force performance, Depardieu plays Deveraux as a gross, bloated, drug-taking sex addict. Unsurprisingly, Strauss-Kahn filed a law suit against the movie.

 

Roy Jones Jr.

Roy Jones Jr. is regarded as one of the finest boxers ever to lace up the gloves, and a modern-day Sugar Ray Robinson. Had he not carried on fighting long after his career peaked (he is still boxing today, aged almost 48), he might even have rivaled Sugar Ray as the greatest of all time.

Roy Jones’ career began in earnest when he was blatantly robbed of an Olympic gold medal in his final against a Korean boxer at the 1988 games in Seoul. The decision was considered the worst in Olympic boxing history, but ironically its injustice brought the 19-year old Jones to the public’s attention. It wasn’t long before he was grabbing headlines in the pro-ring for the right reasons. He was world middleweight champion in 1993, defeating fellow future legend Bernard Hopkins, and in 1994 he moved up to super middleweight and won the title from another modern great in James Toney (pictured above). By 1997 Jones had moved up to light heavyweight, winning a third world title and reigning for six years. He suffered his first defeat, a disqualification loss against Montel Griffin, whom he KO’d in one round in the rematch. Jones had now beaten the very best in three weight classes, but he still wasn’t done.

In 2003, in what was seen as an audacious, potentially dangerous move, Jones added twenty pounds of muscle to his 175 lb. frame and challenged John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title. Despite conceding height, reach and 33 pounds in weight, Jones boxed masterfully to win a points decision and a world title at a fourth weight. By then he was 34, possessed a 34-1 record and career almost unmatched in boxing history.

Choosing to drop back down to light heavyweight, Jones suffered his first genuine defeat when he was knocked out in two rounds by Antonio Tarver in 2004. He has continued to box on, winning a few fights, even challenging for world titles, but he has never been champion again. He suffered seven further defeats, four by knockout, and his record currently stands at 64-9 with 46 wins by KO.

In October 2015, in return for his support of professional boxing in Russia (Jones had fought there three times recently and was investing in a boxing gym in Moscow) Roy Jones Jr. was awarded Russian citizenship and a passport by Vladimir Putin in an emotional ceremony in the Crimea. It clearly meant a lot to the American, who said:

“Thank you, Vladimir Putin. I’m really glad to have become a Russian citizen. Russia’s such a welcoming country, and many people in the world want to become her citizens. This is one of the happiest days of my life.”

 

2ndPassports.com

If you are interested in learning more about the Russian Citizenship by Investment program, or indeed one of the many EU CBI programs, including those of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Malta and Portugal, please contact us at 2ndPassports.com today.
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