PN agrees with passport scheme, subject to an ‘open and transparent’ process

Despite findings resulting from a joint investigation of the Passport Papers, both the Opposition Leader and the Prime Minister agree the scheme should be retained.

 

The findings that emerged from a joint media investigation of the Passport Papers show the need for improvements in the cash for passports scheme, not its removal, according to Opposition Leader Bernard Grech.

Replying to questions from The Shift, as one of the newsrooms involved in the investigation into leaked documents from global passports firm Henley & Partners, Grech said: “The PN agrees that there should be a scheme”.

The Opposition Leader said interested individuals should have the opportunity to purchase Maltese, and European, citizenship provided it is an “open and transparent process, based on merit”.

“This, in the sense that a person can acquire citizenship based on his or her integrity and clean record and that the criteria for residency and a genuine link with the country are fulfilled,” Grech told The Shift.

Among the key findings that emerged in the joint media investigation of the Passport Papers is the lack of ‘genuine links’ to the country despite its requirement in the citizenship scheme at the insistence of the European Commission.

The Guardian, part of the consortium investigating the Passport Papers, revealed how the Maltese government accepts a three-week stay in the country as evidence of a ‘genuine link’ to Malta.

Further investigations by the media partners revealed how applicants were guided to meet “the bare minimum” – the law is vague on how much time applicants need to spend in the country.

The investigation, coordinated by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, shows that the programme has fallen short of attracting “talent” to the country promised by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

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.

The PN, however, is on the government’s side on this matter, although the Opposition Leader argued it had to be improved. Grech said the scheme should ensure the applicant “has indeed invested in Malta, besides having purchased or rented a property within the jurisdiction”.

“The PN is willing to support a citizenship scheme which, while attracting investment, does not tarnish the reputation of Malta​,” the Opposition Leader added.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has adamantly defended the scheme following the publication of findings in the Passport Papers, saying the programme has brought in €1.5 billion – wealth that people can “experience”.

He dismissed concerns about ‘genuine links’ to the country, saying there are different ways of establishing such links. Receipts available in the cache of leaked documents show some applicants did not go through much effort to satisfy concerns.

The prime minister reiterated the line first used by Economy Minister Silvio Schembri that the funds helped support government efforts to help businesses during COVID. The Opposition has contested this. PN finance spokesperson Mario de Marco said in a statement that the government should stop taking people for a ride.

He said the deficit had increased by €1.3 billion compared to 2019. At the same time, the government reported an increase in debt of €1.26 billion – this showed that the money the government spent on COVID was all coming from debt, de Marco argued.

Abela stressed that reforms of the programme introduced new safeguards “Do we want this programme scrapped for good, or should we try, with all the safeguards in place, to continue to enjoy the wealth this programme has brought in?”

Retaining the cash flow from the passports scheme is a matter on which both parties seem to agree. This is not a new phenomenon in countries where ‘citizenship by investment’ schemes have been introduced.

Prior to elections in 2019 in the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, which has a two-party system similar to Malta’s, the citizenship scheme took centre stage. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and Opposition Leader Lennox Linton locked horns, eager to convince voters that their respective parties were best positioned to manage the wealth derived from the programme.

Malta is heading down the path of Caribbean countries, where the issue is not about whether the programme should be retained but who can manage it best.

                           
                               
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Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
3 months ago

This stance by the PN is a terrible indictment as is their agreement with the ‘women in parliament’ bill. There is no other option than to vote for a third party if one wants meaningful change.

M.Galea
M.Galea
3 months ago

No doubt ! PN same as PL!

Mick
Mick
3 months ago

“There are crooks everywhere you look”, was never more true. How can any real Maltese individual support this nefarious trade is beyond me. I hope the EU will totally reject this horrendous trade.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
3 months ago

Gahan fails to understand what bobby and bernard are talking about !

Isle of the corrupt
Isle of the corrupt
3 months ago

They agree with it because most of there MPs have a smaller slice of the pie than there labour counterparts and also add probably renting out there portfolios of properties to these non existent tenants?

Michael
Michael
3 months ago

What a disgrace, when will politicians start thinking ethical rather than legal? Seems everything is legitimate on this small rock as long as money is involved.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
3 months ago
Reply to  Michael

Easy money attacks easy prey, doesn’t it!

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
3 months ago

SHAMEFUL.
The PN leader is in favour of the Passport Scheme known as IIP “as long as it does not tarnish the reputation of Malta”.
Dr Grech –
Whatever you say, and whatever you do, the reputation of Malta has been tarnished irreversibly, with the passport scheme being one of the sharpest daggers that have fatally wounded it.
Income from the selling of a ‘European’ and not ‘Maltese’ passport, is no more than misappropriation of income that, rightfully should go to the European Budget.
If the EU is serious, it should insist that if Malta keeps selling these passports, access to the holders should be restricted to just Malta, and the passport should be stamped as such, to distinguish it from passports that belong exclusively to us Maltese.
Dr Grech – what wins you votes, is being bold, and not accepting what is wrong both in form, and in substance, and, what is wrong, can never be righted with money, as Labour does.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
3 months ago

Can anything be simpler to understand? Hardly – for those who really wish to.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joseph Tabone Adami

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