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Sat 17 August 2019
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It has been 18 months since Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated and Malta is still no closer to an independent public inquiry, and the trade in passports she complained of continues to boom.

The trade in Maltese “citizenship by investment” passports for the sum of €650,000 each began shortly after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s premiership, in 2014. Alexander Nix and Cambridge Analytica/SCL worked with Muscat and Mr Kalin of Henley & Partners prior to his successful election, according to a recent UK Parliamentary report on disinformation and fake news.

The total profits and number of sales from the citizenship by investment scheme remain opaque because in Malta does not issue independent audits

According to figures from the Maltese report on the Individual Investor Programme, Henley & Partners have earned €28.8 million from 2014-June 2018. In just four years, 2014-2018 – 2,500 passports for new Maltese and EU citizens have been sold.

The profits go into three departments, the National Development and Social Fund, The Consolidated Fund and Identity Malta.  

In just four years, the sale of passports has raised €672 million for Malta, and it now has over 150 accredited “agents” who help manage the programme.

Who is buying these passports?

Data from Eurostat shows Russia and Asia are the most popular regions who buy Maltese passports. 500 Russians successfully bought a Maltese passport in 2016.

This week the Russian corruption fighter Ilya Shumanov, the deputy head of Transparency International’s bureau in Moscow, leaked to the Daily Beast a list of 582 Russians who have purchased passports from Malta – and therefore European Union passports – only since the beginning of 2018.

Russian parliament member, and billionaire Grigory Anikiyev, recently bought a Maltese/European Union passport for his son Artem, whose video of his recent trip to Malta via a private plane is widely available on YouTube.

The only requirement to buy a passport is that the purchaser must buy a property in Malta for the minimum value of €350,000 or the minimum annual rent of €16,000. Most passport holders choose to rent. 91 percent between 2017 and 2018.

Jonathan Cardona – courtesy The Shift

Jonathan Cardona, the Maltese politician and CEO of Malta’s Individual Investor Programme (IIP) has confirmed he is travelling to Asia this month to promote the scheme for Henley & Partners. He is off to tour Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines with Yiannos Trisokkas, Chairman of Henley’s Real Estate Committee – and a partner from a Cypriot estate broker company.

Local Opposition to the Citizens for Investment Scheme

While in Malta, I asked locals about the scheme. Each person rolled their eyes and had a personal example of how the sale of citizenship to Malta was unfair. I was given examples of children with British parents who were born and raised in Malta, and have never left,  who are unable to get citizenship.

“Malta must keep selling us their passports, to annoy the U.K and U.S.A.”

Kremlin Adviser

The scheme was introduced in 2014. A National Development and Social Fund holds the profits from the scheme and much has been said about the advantages for Malta. But apart from a €5 million donation to a children’s cancer charity and “banking shares” in Lombard Bank there have been no significant benefits or notable public investments in the last five years.

The total profits and number of sales from the citizenship by investment scheme remain opaque because in Malta does not issue independent audits.

Henley & Partners and the Maltese Government hold a private and confidential agreement, which an EU motion stated in February must be terminated without delay because it makes it “impossible to verify whether the sales volume, and further terms are in line with Maltese, EU, and international law and security considerations.”

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The report stated the European Commission no longer endorse Maltese investor citizenship and residence schemes as they: “Pose serious risks to the fight against money laundering and in particular, in regards to security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption.”

In response to Byline Times Henley & Partners welcomed the greater transparency.

The Golden Passports Business is Expanding

Since Daphne Caruana Galizia started exposing the Maltese passport scheme, other potential EU passports are being sold in schemes in Cyprus and Moldova, mostly Russian or Asian nationals looking for second citizenships.

While the Maltese opposition parties, the European Parliament and European Council have asked the Maltese Government to stop the programme a Kremlin adviser reportedly told the Daily Beast: “Malta must keep selling us their passports, to annoy the U.K and U.S.A.”

The adviser also claimed the Maltese Government updates him on the names of applicants for passports: “And once they get the names approved with the Kremlin, there should be no problem.”

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