An advert on Facebook promoting the sale of an apartment in Sliema with the real estate agent publicly stating that a ‘passport client’ who is renting out the property has never actually lived in it, draws further attention to the revelations about the rental of properties tied to the cash-for-passports programme.
It confirms that for some of these individuals, renting a property on the island is nothing more than a small effort to satisfy a basic requirement in the application process.
The advert for a two-bedroom apartment in Sliema was removed after the publication of the Passport Papers by an international consortium of journalists involving all the independent newsrooms in Malta.
Among the more worrying elements which featured commonly in the stories reported by the local and international news portals was the fact that the requirements to invest or rent out property in Malta was nothing more than a ticking-the-box exercise.
The apartment in question is one of the most recent examples that show most of the applicants do not seem keen to forge a ‘genuine link’ with Malta.
As investigative journalists observed in the leak of documents from Henley and Partners, the concessionaires for the Individual Investment Programme (IIP), a large number of applicants only wanted to get a Maltese passport because it gives them ease of access to the rest of Europe.
This is evident in a reply that Saudi Arabia Prince Mishaal Bin Khalid F. Al-Saud, who said, in reply to questions that he intended to get Maltese citizenship “for the sole purpose of easing frequent business travels through Europe and other countries”.
For some, Malta wasn’t even the first option. As explored in the investigation by The Shift, some individuals would apply for passports in different countries simultaneously and hope that at least one of the application would go through.
One of the requirements established for the IIP is that the applicants must commit to retaining immovable residency in Malta for a minimum of five years. This can be done either by the purchase of property for €750,000 or more or by leasing a property with a minimum annual rent of €16,000.
The law does not specifically state that the new passport holder must physically live in the apartment being rented out. But the requirements established by Agenzija Kommunita’ Malta (formerly known as Identity Malta) ‘a valuation report by an architect confirming that the rental value is in line with the current market value’ must be provided.
In the case of the advertised apartment in Rue d’Argens, the rental cost of €1,350 a month is just above the minimum required payment by law.
The fact that Malta is selling its passports to individuals with little or no connection to the country has been a major point of contention for the European Commission. Last October, the European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Malta and Cyprus for selling EU citizenship.
The European Commission said it considers that the granting by these Member States of their nationality – and thereby EU citizenship – in exchange for a pre-determined payment or investment without a genuine link with the Member States concerned, is not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation enshrined in Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union.
“This also undermines the integrity of the status of EU citizenship provided for in Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,” the Commission had said.
In a reaction to the revelations by the Passport Papers, Greens MEP Sven Giegold said the documents show that the requirement that IIP applicants establish a genuine link to the country has been undermined.
“The Maltese government’s disregard for European values is even greater than feared. Basic European values have been sacrificed for quick profits in Malta. The new revelations are a low point in the scandal of the sale of European citizens’ rights,” he said in a statement.
He insisted that the EU Commission must put an immediate end to this threat to its security and the rule of law and called on the EU Commission to open infringement proceedings over the sale of EU visas.