No money from the sale of citizenship has yet been put into the Development Fund, almost three years on

Published: June 20, 2016 at 9:18am

Almost three years after the government began selling Maltese citizenship through the agency of Henley & Partners and with the help of a whole host of Maltese intermediaries who were brought on board to keep them quiet by giving them a share of the spoils, the ‘development fund’ into which the money should have gone remains empty.

The Times of Malta reported on Saturday that no money has yet been transferred to the fund from Identity Malta, even though the Prime Minister said last October that it contained €75 million already at that point.

The Times spoke to David Curmi, who was made chief of the fund when he left his post of president of the Chamber of Commerce after having brought the Chamber on board to back the government on the sale of citizenship when the plans were first announced.

Curmi told the newspaper that the fund, which even at this late stage exists only on paper, is “a work in progress”. The “necessary infrastructure” is still being set up by the board of governors, he said, and announcements about projects will “be made shortly”.

Seventy per cent of the money which the government receives from the sale of citizenship – that is, the total sum paid by the Russians, Chinese and so on who buy Maltese citizenship, less the hefty commission taken by Henley & Partners and their Maltese intermediaries, less 30 per cent which is kept by the government to use as it pleases – is supposed to go into the development fund.

The development fund does not yet even have bank accounts in which to receive any money that Identity Malta chooses to pass on. David Curmi told the Times that it is “in the process of opening accounts with the Central Bank of Malta” and that it has yet to appoint a CEO to “take care of its day to day administration”.

An advertisement for to fill this CEO vacancy was published last Thursday, with the deadline for applications being 1 July – which indicates that, as per standard practice under this government, the post has been filled already and the advertisement is there for the sake of appearance only.

The only reassuring name on the board of governors of this development fund is that of Michael Bonello, a former governor of the Central Bank. The others are former Malta Union of Teachers boss John Bencini, who campaigned for the election of Joseph Muscat as Prime Minister and now leads the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (rotating chair), former Labour MP Maria Camilleri, and Karm Farrugia, a long-retired economist and lifelong supporter of the Malta Labour Party, who is almost 90.

David Curmi, who chairs the development fund

David Curmi, who chairs the development fund