Bloomberg Business: Malta is a poor country that needs Christian Kalin to sell its passports

Published: March 12, 2015 at 1:20pm

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Can it get any worse? There’s a big interview with Christian Kalin of Henley & Partners in Bloomberg Business right now. He’s described in the lead-in as the man whose business is “showing poor countries they have at least one resource worth selling: citizenship”.

Malta is lumped in with a whole bunch of truly desperate and impoverished Caribbean islands, and then with the economically-traumatised Portugal and Cyprus:

The prime minister of Malta, the premier of Nevis, the commerce minister of Cyprus, and a Portuguese ambassador are here, too. They’ve all come at Kalin’s invitation.

Each will have about 15 minutes to make his pitch. For Joseph Muscat of Malta, it’s the fourth appearance at a Henley event in 12 months. Malta’s contract with Henley requires high-ranking government officials to speak at the firm’s events “whenever requested.”

There you go: the head of the Maltese government, reduced on Bloomberg Business to a travelling salesman who performs on demand at Christian Kalin’s global passport circus.

But there’s more.

The audience is 300 or so lawyers and accountants, middlemen in the citizenship-by-investment industry who probably have little interest in tourist amenities. For their clients—mostly wealthy Chinese, Russians, and Middle Easterners looking for second passports—the less time spent in places like Antigua the better.

Indeed, one of the first things Browne did after being elected last June was to lower Antigua’s residency requirement for citizenship buyers to five days over five years from 35 days over the same period. Browne also threw out a plan to publish passport recipients’ names.

No other program except Malta’s does that. “It was an issue of competition,” he explains the day before his speech. Antigua settled on five days of residency as a compromise, he says, “so there will be some familiarity with the destination. We don’t want it to appear as just a vulgar sale of passports.”

The vulgar sale of passports: but that’s exactly what it is, isn’t it – the vulgar sale of passports.

“No other program except Malta’s publishes passport recipients’ names” – except that it doesn’t. We were told that the names would be published, as a way of keeping the Opposition quiet, but the first tranche of Russians and what-not have received their Maltese passports already and their names haven’t been published.

There’s another point to be made there. Leli Mallia of the half million in cash in his mattress, when he was in charge of this cheap and tacky farce, said that the names would be published along with all the others who had received Maltese citizenship through the normal channels (through a parent, by marriage or naturalization) in the Government Gazette without anything to set them apart from the others.

In other words, we will not know whether the names of those who have bought Maltese passports have been published or not, because the names in the Government Gazette could be those of people who haven’t paid for their citizenship.

I can’t understand why the Opposition isn’t calling for the publication of this first raft of names, unless some members of the Opposition have been involved in the sale of those passports as intermediaries and don’t like the idea.

Talk about conflict of interest. Muscat managed to buy silence even here with that cynical move of widening the intermediary base. He knew that would inevitably mean the ‘mhux kulhadd irid jiekol’ Maltese mantra would bring them in as conflict of interest is kicked to the wall.