The Malta Independent 9 May 2021, Sunday

WATCH: 'To the clients, we say do the bare minimum’, Henley official says on IIP

Albert Galea Friday, 23 April 2021, 13:30 Last update: about 15 days ago

A Henley & Partners representative said that they advise potential Maltese passport buyers that they only need to do the “bare minimum” when it comes to satisfying the criteria for the scheme.

In an undercover video shot by The Guardian as part of the Passport Papers collaboration, Henley & Partners’ Dominic Volek explained that the one-year residency requirement that one needs to acquire a Maltese passport as part of the IIP scheme does not mean that the applicant need to live in Malta for an entire year.

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“But in order to establish genuine links to the country, the government does want any adult applicants to spend at least three weeks in Malta, Volek said.

This three-week stay can be done either in one go when the passport buyer travels to Malta to give biometric data for the residency application, or it can be split across different trips to the island in the space of that year.

“To the clients, we say do the bare minimum. We say the minimum because even under the original program, there is no regulation that actually states how much time [should be spent in Malta],” Volek told the undercover journalists. 

Volek also said that most clients end up staying in hotels for their stay, “because they do not want to clean up and make meals.”

The Malta Independent and MaltaToday today reported how many passport applicants only pay the bare minimum in rent for cheap houses which they mostly never even step foot in during their supposed year-long residency period.

The leasing or purchase of a property is a requirement under the IIP for one to acquire a passport, with the minimum rent set at 1,333.33 per month.

The government’s new proposed IIP scheme – which would replace the old scheme after the number of successful applications was maxed out – emphasises more links with the Maltese community, and also increases the minimum rent to be paid to 1,500 per month.

The Guardian’s undercover sting is part of the Passport Papers, a collaborative investigation into a cache of Henley & Partners documents coordinated by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation and funded by the Investigative Journalist for Europe (IJ4EU) fund.

The Malta Independent is one of the investigation’s five local media partners.

The advice given by Henley & Partners is accurate and lawful - Henley

In a statement to The Guardian in reply to the footage, Henley & Partners said:

“Nothing contained in Dominic Volek’s comments is unethical, procedurally inaccurate, or contrary to the laws and regulations of Malta. Any insinuation to the contrary would be unjustifiable and damaging.

“Strikingly, though, it is also not the full picture that Mr Volek communicated to your undercover reporter or the process described. Amongst other things, Mr Volek crucially advised that several other links must be established by the client, quite separately to the residence requirements (which are not clearly defined).

Reducing the “genuine links” question to the residence issue will knowingly fail to address the matter accurately and in a balanced way, as is your journalistic responsibility at common law and per paragraph 1 of The Editors’ Code of Practice and Rule 2 of the NUJ Code of Conduct.

“There is no legal basis in EU law to determine what “links” a prospective applicant for citizenship must establish to be considered for citizenship in any member state of the EU; as a matter of EU law, this is entirely up to the individual EU member state. This fact must be reflected in your reporting, as its omission may suggest that EU rules have been breached, which would be factually incorrect (as there are no such rules) and risk irreversible commercial and financial damage to Henley & Partners.

“The advice given by Henley & Partners is accurate and lawful, carefully tailored to clients by the requirements of each individual jurisdiction we operate in.”

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