Investigations into the proliferation of agents trafficking workers to Malta from countries like Nepal and India revealed links between Malta’s official concessionaire for the Malta Residency and Visa Programme (MRVP) in China and a former Mossack Fonseca client.
Lawyer Alexei Dalli is the owner of Malta-based company EA Global, together with Chinese national Lina Zhu (based in Shangai). Its business is visa advisory and facilitation services.
One of the company’s directors is Shiqi Chen, the former project manager for Shanghai Overseas Exit Entry which is the MRVP programme’s official concessionaire in China, Hong Kong and Makau.
Shanghai Overseas Exit Entry made the headlines last week following a seminar the company organised in Shangai, China, which was attended by Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms, Citizenship and Simplification of Administrative Processes Julia Farrugia Portelli. Some 50 families have applied through the MRVP to acquire residency rights by investment, according to the announcement.
Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had raised the alarm about Shanghai Overseas Exit Entry (a private company) in 2016. She drew on a report published in the Chinese media which stated that one of the advantages of the programme was that the Maltese government would not ask about the source of an applicant’s funds.
Caruana Galizia had suspected the involvement of Sai Mizzi Liang – the wife of Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Malta’s former Consul General in Shanghai who was earning over €13,000 a month. Her whereabouts are now a mystery.
Where is Sai Mizzi Liang?
The Shift News sent questions to Minister Mizzi over a month ago, asking whether Mizzi Liang had returned to Malta and whether she was in any way involved in the sale of Maltese passports or visas in China. They remain unanswered.
Replying to questions from The Shift News, Dalli said: “OC Shanghai have cooperation agreements with various accredited agents to assist them with applications. I believe that my fee is very competitive and that is the reason why they have from time to time engaged my services. I was approached by various other foreign agents and work with them”.
The MRVP is Malta’s residency by investment programme whereby an applicant must have an annual income of not less than €100,000 and must also acquire or rent a property besides investing €250,000 in Government stocks.
Since the programme’s launch two years ago there have been 140 successful applications, 80% of which were from China, according to official figures.
Dalli said Mizzi Liang’s husband, Minister Mizzi, has no involvement in the programme, “as far as he was aware”.
Apart from offering services for the MRVP programme, Dalli is also an agent for the Individual Investor Programme (Malta’s passport sales scheme). This requires an applicant to invest invest €650,000 as a grant to the State fund plus additional investments worth €150,000 retained for five years. Applicants must either buy a property with €350,000 or rent out a property for €16,000 per year, for a period of five years, and there must be proof that the applicant has been a resident of Malta for the past 12 months.
At the other end of the scale are the low-salaried workers ‘imported’ because of the ‘critical situation’ in the labour market. Dalli has enterered this market too. He confirmed he is also a consultant to VV International, based in Kathmandu, Nepal, which advertises paid work in Malta for citizens of Nepal and India in batches of 100.
The Shift News asked Dalli about the conditions of work offered to workers from Nepal and India, his main target market, after information received that adverts stated the work was six days per week. This would work out at some 60c per hour for a cleaner, chambermaid or machine operator, assuming an eight-hour day.
Dalli insisted employees work 40 hours per week. When The Shift News asked Dalli to provide proof the workers were receiving the minimum wage and rights according to Maltese law, he said he could not.
“I cannot prove it since I have not managed to bring employees [from India and Nepal] to Malta,” he said.
It is not possible to verify this information through official records. In fact, the lack of transparency in this field is a problem that needs to be addressed, according to a former diplomat with extensive experience in Nepal and India who was contacted by The Shift News as part of its efforts to investigate the issue.