In a video conference Henley and Partners had with the European Parliament’s delegation investigating the rule of law in Malta, representatives of the cash-for-passports concessionaires said they only sue Maltese journalists if they get an ‘OK’ from government.
During the meeting, the company was represented by chairman Christian Kalin, chief operating officer Juerg Steffen and Stuart MacFeeters who is the managing partner in Malta and a transcript of the meeting has been released by the head of delegation Ana Gomes.
In the meeting, held on 14 March 2018, Henley and Partners’ representatives said they have been in Malta for 20 years and said they would not go ahead with suing Maltese journalists “unless we got at least an informal ‘OK’ of the key decision makers.”
MEPs quizzed the three men on the email exchange in which Kalin, addressing “Keith, Joseph”, said “I trust you agree for us to proceed accordingly” to sue slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and opposition MP Jason Azzopardi in the UK.
In their reply they said: “H&P just wanted to know if it was ok with the government to proceed with a lawsuit because it has public and political implications. We have a good relationship with the government. H&P maintains good and close relations with clients.
Summary of video-conference meeting #EP #RuleofLaw Mission to #Malta MEPs had with #Henley&Partners on 14.03.2018 (a week before AliSadr, owner of #PilatusBank, was arrested in USA). #DaphneCaruanaGalizia https://t.co/fqIR4GJLFt
— Ana Gomes (@AnaMartinsGomes) May 6, 2018
“The point of the email was to ask the government if they would be ok with a legal action H&P was planning to take (which can have political repercussions). As a concessionaire of the IIP programme, we wanted to inform the government. We would not go ahead with something like that unless we got at least an informal ‘OK’ of the key decision makers.”
On their threat to sue The Shift News, they said “we decided not to take further action for now,” but they reserved the right to take action at a later stage.
“We are concessionaires in Malta so, obviously, when we take these decisions with a political impact, we ask the government whether it is ok to do so.”
Asked about the “informality and closeness” between the company and the Maltese government, Henley and Partners’ representatives said they have close relations with governments around the world.
“We are closer to some governments than others, but in small countries like Malta, it is possible to approach a member of government quite informally. We have known them for a long time, and it is not possible to compare relations with the government of Malta to Germany or another big country.”
Joseph Muscat is not ‘obliged’ to promote cash-for-passport scheme
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is under no obligation to promote the programme “ but he only goes when he wants,” the three men told MEPs.
Yet, in the contract tabled in Parliament in February 2015, Article 7.4 states it is at the concessionaire’s own discretion that from time to time it organises, at its own cost and expense, conferences and events to professionally promote the IIP worldwide.
“The government will ensure to send, whenever requested by the concessionaire, appropriate high-ranking government representatives, or other senior government officials, to speak at the events and represent the programme and the government”.
Henley and Partners acknowledged that they sometimes cover the costs incurred by politicians who attend their events.
“We sometimes pay expenses of travel for politicians if they do not have a budget for it, but that is all. Sometimes we also pay one or two nights if there is a conference,” they said.
Muscat and other members of his administration, including his chief of staff Keith Schembri have attended numerous Henley and Partners events all over the world, most recently in London when the Prime Minister was jeered by protestors before a gala dinner in which guests were entertained by Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja.
Henley and Partners deny introducing Muscat to Pilatus Bank owner
The three men also denied introducing Muscat to the shamed owner of Pilatus Bank Ali Sadr, insisting that the two men knew each other before meeting at a Henley and Partners event in London.
The Guardian had reported that “Ali Sadr first entered Muscat’s orbit in October 2013, when the pair were introduced at an event in London by Christian Kalin, the chief executive of Henley & Partners. The event marked the launch of a new passport-selling scheme that Kälin and Henley were establishing in Malta.”
Last month Ali Sadr was arrested by the FBI in the US where he is now charged with funnelling more than $115 million paid under a Venezuelan construction contract through the US financial system.
“We organised a meeting with the Prime Minister Muscat and him in London, but we were never involved in their relationship or the licensing of the Bank in Malta. There was a meeting where Pilatus Bank did a presentation, where they suggested offering financing services to our clients, but there was no interest,” they said.
Asked about his personal relationship with Ali Sadr who acquired multiple St Kitts and Nevis passports through Henley and Partners, Kalin said “he was a client with H&P and I got to know him personally because he was our client. There is absolutely no link between us and the setting up of Pilatus Bank in Malta. We did not refer clients to him.”
He added that at one point Henley and Partners were approached by Pilatus to collaborate “but it never happened. Pilatus Bank contacted us about setting up a scheme for Pilatus to finance (through loans) the acquisition of citizenship in Malta to H&P clients. But this never went through.”
Cambridge Analytica links
On their relationship with Cambridge Analytica, they said that Henley and Partners had no involvement in the Maltese elections and only reached out to Cambridge Analytica after an article was published on the work they were doing in the US elections.
They said this was done to see whether Cambridge Analytica could help Henley and Partners reach out to clients in North America “but it did not lead to anything, because in order to make an offer they wanted access to historical data from our clients, and we could not provide that.”
Last week, British political magazine The Spectator interviewed a source who worked for Cambridge Analytica’s mother company, SCL Elections up to 2010.
The source said Kalin and Cambridge Analytica’s former CEO Alexander Nix coordinated funding and electoral works for politicians in the Caribbean who would then engage Henley and Partners to run their passport selling schemes.
Moreover, a British MP has linked Cambridge Analytica to Henley and Partners and has called for more investigations.