Theodoros Rakopoulos
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On the art of selling a passport
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This chapter focuses on one side of the golden passport transaction: the selling part. Specifically, it offers an ethnographic insight into the key people of the passport industry: the brokers, or facilitators, who pave the way for the production of golden passports. Exploring the thought and practice of these traders, the chapter examines their specific work and life choices. Aiming to illuminate the inner life of CBIs, I am positioning my interlocutors’ CIP practice diffused in the larger area of their life experience, and thus am also paying attention to the longer biographies in their trade, as well as personal biographies. Brokers belong to three prosperous fields (lawyers, auditors and real estate developers), although there is stratification in each profession – “big and small fish” exist in the market pool. The ethnography focuses precisely on big and less-than-big lawyers, real estate sellers and owners, and auditors, examining their thoughts, beliefs and lifeworlds. It argues that these “makers” of CBIs, the people that staff the process for naturalisations, perform more than economic brokerage in the formation of economic citizenship, as they introduce clients to a new cosmos (that of a Mediterranean island), and are often endowed with skills and preferences from their clients’ cosmos, too (Russia or China). As the passport encapsulates cultural processes, its brokers’ main skill is to mobilise “cultural ambassador” qualities to serve their clients. Brokers ironically coming from left-wing backgrounds mobilise experiences in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, where many have strong links, to serve Russian elites today.

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Passport island

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