Many people around the world don’t know where Malta is, or whether it exists. But it seems that things are changing and Malta is no longer an unknown quantity. At least not in Russia.
A few Russians might recall the 1989 Malta summit in which US president George HW Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared the end of the Cold War. Yet, in recent times Malta has become synonymous with offshore companies and the cash-for-citizenship programme.
In a popular TV series aired on Russia’s Channel One – which has more than 250 million viewers worldwide – Malta was mentioned as a place where money can be laundered.
‘Salsa’ is a multi series film about the love story between a successful Muscovite and a dancer. The first episode sees one of the main characters Oleg Ivanovich, a banker, saying that he will launder money via Luxembourg into a Maltese holding company. Despite being warned that this is illegal, the banker says that there is nothing to worry about.
“I transfer money from our bank to the Luxembourg Trust, from there money goes to a Maltese holding and from there the money goes directly to your Cayman Islands company. This scheme is absolutely safe and tested,” the banker says in a conversation.
The Malta Files leak exposed how Malta’s tax regime attracts firms linked to the Italian mafia, Russian loan sharks and the highest echelons of the Turkish elite.
Moreover, Russian nationals dominate the list of people who were granted Maltese citizenship during 2016, including those who had purchased their citizenship through the Individual Investor Programme (IIP).
The people who buy citizenship are not distinguished from others who gain it through naturalisation but the list includes Alexander Pavlovich Grachev, a former competitive ice dancer.
Other new ‘Maltese’ citizens include Leonid Viktoryvich Korotkova, a member of Russia’s Communist Party and a former governor of Amur Oblast in Siberia, Alexey Alexandrovich Marey, the CEO of Alfa Bank Russia, Roman Evgenievich Trushev, the chairman of oil and gas company Petroneft and Elena and Anna Rybolovleva, the former wife and daughter of AS Monaco owner Dmitry Rybolovlev.