The Malta Independent 12 May 2021, Wednesday

Saudi royal met with Joseph Muscat to get name off Government Gazette after passport purchase

Albert Galea & Nicole Meilak Thursday, 22 April 2021, 06:00 Last update: about 19 days ago

Revealing The Passport Papers: A joint investigation into Malta's passport selling programme by independent media houses across the country. This story is by Malta Independent Online Coordinator Albert Galea and MaltaToday's Nicole Meilak.

A member of the Saudi royal family successfully saw his name removed from the Government Gazette after personally raising the concern with former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, despite there being a government obligation to publish the names of all naturalised citizens.

According to an email thread from a Henley & Partners database – made available to The Malta Independent and MaltaToday and other media houses in a collaboration called ‘The Passport Papers’ – a senior client adviser to Prince Bander Al Saud wrote to a member of the IIP citizenship application processing team within the company asking for clarification over the publication of Al Sauds name in the Government Gazette.

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The reason why I am asking is because it is a very sensitive matter raised by the client. He met the Prime Minister, H.E. Joseph Muscat, and Jonathan Cardona, where he explained that it is of utmost importance not to mention his full name rather to mention Mr Bander A. Saud”. Mr Cardona assured that they will proceed this way but we need to remind them.”

Jonathan Cardona was the CEO of Identity Malta at the time, and emails within this database show that he worked closely with Henley & Partners on applications for Maltese passports.

The names of all new Maltese citizens are published every year in the Government Gazette, although no distinction is made as to whether they acquired citizenship by purchasing a passport or otherwise.

Bander Al Sauds application was approved in principle on 10 November 2016. No letters were found inviting him to take oath and collect his passport, but an itinerary document shows that Al Saud was planning to take oath on 13 March 2017 and collect his passport on 17 March.

The folder pertaining to his citizenship application indicates that his passport was issued.

His father, Prince Khaled Al Saud, also had his application approved and was eventually invited to take the oath of allegiance.

In line with Al Sauds request for removal, a search through Government Gazettes finds no relevant hits for Saud” or any such variation.

This information comes from a range of documents provided by a whistleblower pertaining to Henley & Partners’passport, real estate and residency visa sales. The material was first passed on to Daphne Caruana Galizia, and was later taken on by the Daphne Foundation following her death. The information was shared with several media houses as part of a collaboration titled ‘The Passport Papers’.

Bander Al Saud is a member of the Saudi royal family, but does not fall within the main branch of royals and would never be in line to the throne.

He however holds an impressive entrepreneurial portfolio. According to the CV he presented to Henley & Partners, Al Saud holds high-ranking positions in nine companies within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

He is vice president of Unified Holding Company, and founded Unified Real Estate Development. The latter houses the largest outdoor shopping centre in Saudi Arabia, with 45 shopping centres across the country.

Additionally, he owns Riyadh International Catering Corporation, the master franchisee of the McDonalds brand in Saudi Arabia.

Citizenship laws in Saudi Arabia forbid the holding of dual nationalities without the written consent of the King. It is unknown as to whether Al Saud obtained this permission for citizenship.

At the time of the request, government had no secrecy clause in place.

On this matter, former IIP CEO Jonathan Cardona confirmed to the collaboration of media houses that the applicant is made aware of the fact that when applying or acquiring Maltese citizenship, he or she may prejudice the citizenship of origin.

Indeed the relative statuary application provides for a declaration in this regard,” Cardona said.

When contacted for comments, former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed that repeated concerns were flagged about the publication of names for applicants from sensitive regions, and about the potential and material risks to them and their families.

I am informed that in all cases, the relevant authorities acted in terms of the citizenship and applicable laws,” he told the collaboration.

The Office of the Regulator, Granting of Citizenship for Exceptional Services (OR-GCES) said that the publishing of names in the Government Gazette is done in line with citizenship laws, while taking into account issues of public policy and public security as well as data protection considerations”.

Kommunita Malta meanwhile said that they could not comment on specific individuals or circumstances, but they said that no face-to-face encounters have impacted the outcome of any application.

Al Saud himself meanwhile did not reply to questions sent by the collaboration.

Henley & Partners replied to questions from the collaboration, saying that it is ultimately the responsibility of the countries involved to investigate and vet applicants. A full copy of their reply is attached here.

This is a joint investigation by The Malta Independent and MaltaToday along with other partners, coordinated by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation. The production of this investigation was supported by a grant from the Investigative Journalism for Europe (IJ4EU) fund.

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