Recent revelations show that Malta is selling Maltese citizenships, and by extension European citizenship rights, to foreign investors without requiring them to have a “genuine link” to the country. The revelations are based on leaked emails from Henley & Partners, which describes itself as a “global leader in residence and citizenship planning”. The documents show how the requirement that applicants establish a genuine link to the country has been undermined. Applicants for a so-called golden passport had to write a letter to the relevant authority explaining how they intended to strengthen their ties with Malta. The time the prospective citizens wanted to spend in Malta during their compulsory one-year residency period averaged 16 days. Some of the applicants who later received a golden passport did not commit to spending time in the country at all. Instead, they were able to buy a “genuine link” by donating to charities or joining a sports club. The relevant government agency, Identity Malta, in consultation with Henley & Partners, even developed a points system: 1 day in Malta equals 15 points, a €10,000 donation to charity is worth 50 points, and 220 points or more are needed to prove a genuine link.
Malta’s golden passport programme was announced in 2013. The mandatory one-year residency period before naturalisation was introduced in 2014 in consultation with the EU Commission in order to address the Commission’s concerns. On 20 October 2020, the EU Commission launched infringement proceedings against Malta and Cyprus over the sale of golden passports. The Commission warned that without a genuine link to the naturalising member state, this violates the principle of sincere cooperation.
The revelations are based on documents that the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation had shared with media partners. The work of the foundation, named after Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered in 2017, was supported by the Investigative Journalism for Europe Fund. The revelations are part of the Passport Papers series just launched by the Times of Malta. It also reports that a Saudi Arabian prince was able to acquire a Maltese passport after meeting with former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Identity Malta CEO Jonathan Cardona, without his name being listed in the annually published list of new citizens as required by law. Another article discloses written agreements between Henley & Partners and Cambridge Analytica’s parent company.
MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group commented:
“The Maltese government’s disregard for European values is even greater than feared. Basic European values have been sacrificed for quick profits in Malta. The new revelations are a low point in the scandal of the sale of European citizens’ rights.
For eight years now, Malta has been enriching itself by selling passports and visas. The visas and passports sold are an open door to corruption. European citizens’ rights are not a commodity. Malta must stop all practices in this area immediately. The EU Commission must put an immediate end to this threat to our security and the rule of law. A consistent and credible path to a functioning rule of law in Malta is now needed. The EU Commission must also open infringement proceedings over the sale of EU visas.”
UPDATE: European Parliament Motion for a Resolution on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the rule of law in Malta published on 22 April
Plenary debate on 25 March 2021: European Parliament to debate the rule of law in Malta: https://sven-giegold.de/en/daphne-ep-rule-of-law-march-2021/
Report in the Times of Malta: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/exposed-the-great-residency-sham-to-obtain-a-maltese-passport.866220
EU Commission announced start of infringement proceedings against Malta: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1925
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