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Dutch MPs file joint PQs on Malta’s golden passport scheme

cash for passports Malta
The Maltese cash-for-passport scheme has become more criticised lately after several arrests of "new citizens"

Four Dutch MPs joined forces and took their Prime Minister to task in a series of parliamentary questions, asking for in-depth answers related to the Maltese golden passport scheme and the involvement of a Dutch academic known as the “passport professor”.

“Is it true that Professor Kochenov was at a gala by the passport company Henley & Partners in November? How do you view this in the context of the ongoing investigation into the conflicts of interest of this professor?” they queried.

An expert in citizenship and immigration law, Dimitry Kochenov is a consultant to Henley & Partners and the Maltese government on the Individual Investor Programme. A professor of EU constitutional law and citizenship at the Dutch University of Groningen, Kochenov resigned in the beginning of 2019 after the university became concerned that his position would jeopardise its independence.

Another question called for clarification on Kochenov’s role at the gala evening. “Was he here as a professor at the University of Groningen or in another capacity? Who paid for this trip? And do you think it would be appropriate for him to be here and would you also like to pass that question on to the University of Groningen?”

Filed by Attje Harma Kuiken (Labour), Kees Verhoeven (Democrats 66), Renske Maria Leijten (Socialist Party) and Dutch MPs Pieter Omtzigt (Christian Democratic Appeal), the PQs were tabled in the Dutch Parliament this week and were also addressed to the Foreign Affairs Minister Stef Blok and Education Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven.

All four political parties had raised their concerns separately about the passport scheme in the Dutch Parliament and, through Omztigt’s role as special rapporteur with the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, even on an European level . This week’s joint parliamentary questions also referenced a number of investigations into the golden passport scheme carried out by The Shift.

They called on the Dutch prime minister and the foreign and education ministers for their reaction to the recently published list of people who were granted Maltese citizenship between 2014 and 2018. This week, The Shift revealed that five family members of the Qatari royal Al Thani family were granted Maltese citizenship.

“How does this list of more than 10,000 people relate to the report you mentioned (from the office of the regulator on the Individual Investor Program ) which shows that until November 2018, 961 people bought a passport in Malta?” they said.

The MPs pointed out that a number of individuals who had been jailed, or were facing various charges, had also taken advantage of the Maltese passport scheme. These included a Russian billionaire who had been arrested in the United Kingdom for fraud and seized €500 million in assets, an Egyptian man who had been found guilty of fraud and money laundering in a US court and is potentially facing 125 years in prison and Chinese billionaire who is on trial in the US for 1.8 billion dollars tax evasion. There was also a Russian billionaire who had bought an island from the Finland, which was then raided by 400 Finnish agents and Israeli/ Russian tycoon Anatoly Hurgin , who was detained by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US.

Two of these cases had been highlighted by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia before she was killed in October 2017, the MPs said.

They also reminded the PM that AIVD, the Dutch intelligence service, had expressed concern at the passport scheme. “What specific actions have you taken following that warning from the AIVD and what results has it achieved so far?”

The Maltese government had stated that due diligence was “guaranteed when issuing passports”. “Do you share the opinion that this is not the case and can you substantiate your answer?” they queried.

Turning to Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the MPs pointed out that he had been chosen as 2019’s most corrupt person by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. “Does the fact that Muscat has been designated as the most corrupt person of 2019 and the fact that the European Parliament has asked for his resignation still have any effect on the other 26/27 heads of government in the EU? If yes, which and if not, why not?”

They also asked the Dutch PM what had been discussed in his “extensive meeting” with Muscat at the recent European summit and whether any commitments had been made.

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