Malta and Kazakhstan share new link: Henley and Partners

Malta-based cryptocurrency broker Exante has also set foot in Kazakhstan

Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat with Henley and Partners Henley president Christian Kalin

Henley and Partners, the private concessionaires awarded a multimillion-euro contract to design and operate Malta’s cash for passport programme, has been awarded the mandate to design a residence by investment programme for Kazakhstan, the firm has confirmed.

Sarah Nicklin, the Group’s Head of Public Relations, told The Shift News that the firm was “proud and pleased to have won this tender…to consult on a possible programme for the country”. She added that there was no programme in place yet so any parameters and details relating to it were not yet known.

“Indeed, it is not clear at this stage whether or not a programme will actually be offered at all”, she added.

Three companies competed for the public tender in Kazakhstan, according to Investment Migration Insider (IMI), a portal for the citizenship by investment industry. It is the same news portal that had reported ‘glowing praise’ for Malta’s cash for passport programme (always referred to as the  “Individual Investor Programme”) by Peter Vincent, General Counsel for Thomson Reuters Special Services. The Shift News had contacted Vincent at the time and it became clear that he was unaware of allegations of kickbacks linked to the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.

In an interview with IMI, the COO of Henley and Partners, Juerg Steffen, said that what precipitated Kazakhstan’s decision to introduce a residence programme was President Nazarbayev’s announcement of a 100-step plan to gradually build the nation and become one of the world’s 30 most developed nations by 2050.

The same plan was what Malta-based cryptocurrency broker Exante said had led to the company signing a deal of co-operation with Kazakhstan’s government-supported Astana International Finance Center (AIFC).

Malta’s new frontier: Kazakhstan

Nicklin told The Shift News that Henley and Partners was approached by representatives of the AIFC for the first time in April 2017. “While it is certainly good practice for any business with global ambition to continuously look at future market opportunities, we did not have any exchange with the Kazakhstan government before the… contact that came through the AIFC in April 2017.

In the summer, Henley and Partners received notice that it had been selected to develop the programme, according to what Steffen told IMI.

Henley & Partners was contracted in 2014 by the Government of Malta to design and implement the IIP programme for the country. In the same year, Henley and Partners CEO Eric Major was praising Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the cash for passports programme in the Kazakhstan media.

Daphne Caruana Galizia had reported Major’s comments in AK Zhaik, which describes itself as ‘the leading newspaper of the oil capital of Kazakhstan’. She later published part of string of emails between Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his right hand man Keith Schembri and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and Henley and Partners showing the latter sought – and received – the Prime Minister’s approval to threaten to take legal action in an attempt to stop stories being written about it and the controversial passport for sale scheme.

Steffen told IMI that Henley and Partners’ concept paper for Kazakhstan’s programme was handed in “a few weeks ago” and the government was at the stage of considering the proposal. He said the investment requirement in the country will be between US$100,000 and US$200,000, “but the final details are still not 100%”.

The programme proposed would grant applicants instant permanent residence in Kazakhstan, with “all the rights thereto pertaining, such as health insurance, social security, and retirement benefits”.

“Next to this, what’s interesting is the tax situation,” continued Steffen. “According to the tax code applicable in the AIFC, investors would only be taxed on local income, with no worldwide taxation. And since the tax rate within the AIFC is 0%, you could effectively take residence with your family in Kazakhstan, build your company and pay no taxes at all. This makes for a very interesting proposition for certain target markets,” Steffen told IMI.

Steffen said he expected the programme to attract entrepreneurs and other investors from the central Asian region, as well as Russians, Turks, and Chinese. He told IMI: “Not being part of Schengen or the EU, the Kazakh program will not primarily be of interest to those looking for increased mobility, for which programmes like Portugal or Malta offer better options”.

Henley & Partners was contracted in 2014 by the Government of Malta to design and implement the IIP programme for the country. It is the second firm with links to Malta to set foot in Kazakhstan after Exante.

In a Hong Kong conference organised by Henley and Partners Muscat had linked cryptocurrency markets with the passports scheme, suggesting the use of blockchain to share knowledge with IIP countries.

Daphne Caruana Galizia

The new shock doctrine

The Malta Gambling Rush will not last forever