“Visa-free travel to more than 160 countries in the world, including the USA.” Up till a few weeks ago this was how international citizenship consultancy agencies were advertising Malta’s Individual Investor Programme. Today, this is how they are selling it.
An investigation by The Malta Independent has revealed how such agencies are using Malta’s visa waiver programmes and EU membership as their main sales pitch to try and get clients to but a Maltese passport, in return for a commission, of course.
One such consultancy firm – Best Citizenships – recommended to a client that he applies for Maltese, or Cypriot citizenship. Originally the client had inquired about Austria’s citizenship by investment programme, but the firm replied that it has discontinued the Austria programme as “it was getting very difficult to work with the government there, despite a significant monetary contribution.”
But the company suggested instead that the client apply for a similar scheme in Malta, which according to the firm is coming very soon, or another one in Cyprus.
Golden passport, free travel, no residency requirements
The Best Citizenships consultant sent the client 11 different options to choose from, including Malta, with that particular file being named “Malta Golden Passport Programme (minimum €650,000, starts early 2014) (EU passport with no residency requirement).”
Once opened, the document lists the main benefits of buying a Maltese passport. And Best Citizenships lists the obtainment of an EU passport as the first in a list of benefits. “EU passport from a stable, neutral and highly respected Schengen country.”
The list of pros goes on to say that the contribution (meaning the sum to be paid) is “reasonable,” and there is an “efficient application process of less than three months.”
The firm also promises the “world’s strictest due diligence standards and vetting of applicants, thus ensuring only highly respectable clients will be admitted.” There is also no residency or military requirement and successful applicants will be entitled to “visa-free travel to more than 160 countries in the world, including the USA.”
Furthermore, a Maltese/EU citizenship grants the “right of establishment in all 27 EU Schengen stetes.”
Best Citizenship is quoting ‘old’ IIP
The document says that the minimum investment amount is €650,000 that would go into the National Development Fund and are non-refundable. Contributions for children between 18 and 25 years of age are €50,000 and the contribution for spouses and children under 18 is €25,000.
The main applicant also has to pay fees of €7,500 and €70,000 for due diligence and professional fees (Henley and Partners) respectively.
Another document sent by the firm also says that there is no residency requirement, no language requirement and the whole application process is done in less than 3 months. The minimum investment fee is €650,000 and a passport is granted in exchange.
The reply to the client was sent two days ago, on Tuesday 21 January. However it seems that Best Citizenships is selling the idea of Maltese citizenship despite being unaware of changes to Malta’s IIP.
Back in November, after lengthy but unsuccessful talks with the Opposition, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that the scheme was revised and the minimum requirements were raised. These included the requirement for applicants to buy a residence in Malta worth at least €350,000 or rent one for at least €16,000 annually. Applicants must also invest €150,000 in government bonds and approved financial instruments. Both residence and bonds must be maintained for at least five years. These new requirements are not mentioned on the Best Citizenships website, but the IIP description has been updated on the Henley and Partners website.
Malta’s IIP was debated in the European Parliament last week, and 90% of MEPs voting against the selling of Maltese passports on Thursday. But in a press conference later on that day Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told the press that the first applications were already coming in. PN MP Jason Azzopardi remarked on Monday that the application form was only published on the government gazette on Friday.