Brexit campaign backer granted Maltese and EU citizenship

The New Zealand-born billionaire Christopher Chandler who is behind a British think-tank with links to the Brexit campaign has acquired Maltese and EU citizenship through the cash-for-passports scheme (IIP), the Financial Times has reported.

The newspaper said Chandler, as well as Legatum’s chief executive Mark Stoleson, and several of his family members are included in the list of individuals who became Maltese citizens in 2016. The list does not distinguish people who acquired citizenship through IIP and others who were naturalised after long-term residency or marriage.

Reacting to the report, PN MEP Francis Zammit Dimech tweeted “Names revealed by the media confirm concerns raised by the opposition in #Malta and MEPs who visited Malta who made specific recommendations on the IIP. It also explains all the secrecy from disclosing names by the government and the need for full transparency.”

On Sunday, Zammit Dimech and fellow PN MEPs David Casa and Roberta Metsola refused to meet Henley and Partners, the concessionaires of Malta’s money-for-citizenship scheme after the global firm requested a meeting in Brussels.

In 2014 the European Parliament passed a resolution in which the majority of MEPs said that EU citizenship should not be for sale at any price. MEPs expressed concern about schemes established by various EU member states and in particular Malta, which result in the sale of national, and hence EU, citizenship.

As Government plans to renew the scheme it is mulling the removal of the cap of 1,800 applicants it negotiated with the European Commission. Between 2014 and September 2017 the number of applicants stood at 1,500, with some 700 applicants being granted citizenship.

Rich individuals can obtain Maltese citizenship, against a fee of €650,000, as well as €150,000 in government bonds and a €350,000 investment in property but physical presence is not required for applicants to prove residency.

The Financial Times report said that Chandler “is the founder of Dubai-based investment company Legatum Group, which is the main backer of the Legatum Institute Foundation, whose charitable status has come under scrutiny following concerns over its “hard” Brexit stance and access to politicians.”

According to 2016 figures, Legatum Foundation Limited, the charitable arm of Legatum Group, forked out £3.9 million in funding to the think-tank, which after the Brexit vote hired several Eurosceptics, including Matthew Elliott, a co-founder of Vote Leave campaign.

The cash-for passports scheme is a gateway for wealthy foreign investors to secure the benefits of EU citizenship, including the right to work, live and reside in EU member states.

According to leaked Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports, now the subject to a magisterial inquiry, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri received kickbacks from the sale of Maltese passports. The allegations have been denied by Schembri.

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