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China loses millionaires as overseas citizenship tempts richest

[BEIJING] More than 76,000 Chinese millionaires emigrated or acquired citizenship of another country in the decade through 2013 amid global expansion by the nation's companies.

Australia was among the most favored destinations, broker Knight Frank LLP said on Thursday, citing data compiled by law firm Fragomen LLP. The Chinese accounted for more than 90 percent of applications for the country's significant investor visa in the two years to the end of January, representing 1,384 people. They also make the most applications for high-net-worth visas in the UK and the US.

"Ultimately, there is a desire from wealthy Chinese to relocate," said Liam Bailey, head of research at Knight Frank. Some work for a business "that's trying to become a global player so they need a footprint in London, New York and LA, and having staff relocate is quite a positive," he said.

More than 300 Chinese investors applied for the UK's Tier 1 visa, which requires a 2 million-pound (S$4.1 million) investment in British assets, in the first nine months of last year, according to the report. More than 160 of the 703 applications were from Russia.

India follows China in the export of its millionaires, with 43,400 emigrating or getting overseas citizenship during the decade, according to the report. Russia was fifth at 14,000.

More than 114,000 of the world's millionaires moved to the UK in the period, making it the most popular destination. Singapore ranked second with 45,000 and the US was third with 42,400.

Switzerland's increased banking transparency has made it less attractive to the "mobile wealthy" and some millionaires who had moved there are now relocating to Singapore, the UK and the United Arab Emirates, the report said.

"There is a small but growing number of potential buyers who will find it increasingly difficult to access foreign property markets" because of new regulations and increased tax data sharing between governments, the report said.