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Was citizenship programme discussed with PL before election?

Henley & Partners CEO Eric Major was coy when asked whether his firm discussed the Government’s citizenship-for sale scheme with the Labour Party when it was in opposition.

“I did not personally,” said Mr Major. “These guys did not because they were not here,” he said, referring to programme director Mark Stannard and operating officer Michael Lucas, who were also in the conference room.

“I can’t speak for the three other guys in our firm on the advisory side. To be clear, the venues for these things are often at our conferences, where informal networking happens.

“This is often construed as some kind of mischievous, closed office meeting, which is not the case.”

Amendments to the Citizenship Act to establish the Individual Investor Programme passed through the parliamentary committee stage yesterday.

Wealthy foreigners will be able to purchase Maltese citizenship for €650,000, plus an additional €25,000 for spouses and children and €50,000 for adult offspring and dependant parents.

No mention of the programme was made in the Labour Party’s electoral manifesto.

Henley and Partners won a public tender to market and administer much of citizenship the scheme.

Asked if the IIP was a Henley idea that was successfully pitched to the Government, Mr Major said: “Frankly, some of your industry practitioners attend our conferences, and they get ideas about what is being done around the world. It reaches the Government people to consider.

“I can’t recall exactly how we started interacting with Malta.”

Every Government in the past decade has looked into this
- Henley & Partners CEO

He added that Henley had held discussions with the previous Government on implementing the same scheme.

“In their defence they never implemented it, but they contemplated it,” he said.

Mr Major continued that the previous Government chose not to adopt it because they wanted to fix problems in their Permanent Resident Scheme before “getting into the more serious realm of citizenship”.

“Every Government in the past decade has looked into this, I can assure you,” Mr Major said.

By his own admission, the only jurisdictions that have actually introduced a programme to sell outright citizenship for “a non-refundable capital contribution” were the tiny Caribbean nations of St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica.

“Call the Prime Minister of St Kitts. This programme is a game-changer,” he said.

“Malta is also a small jurisdiction. What it can do with the capital generated will be a nice ‘problem’ for any Government.”

From the “200 to 300” applicants that Henley expects to be granted Maltese citizenship each year following the pilot phase, which will end in April, the firm will receive four per cent of the fee (estimated by Henley to work out at €26,000 per applicant).

It will also charge client fees of €70,000 per principal applicant, €15,000 per spouse and adult dependents and €10,000 for dependent minors.

The four per cent payment was to “build, set up, administer, operate and market this programme, and come up with the idea,” Mr Major said.

Due diligence on applicants will mainly be the responsibility of Henley’s government advisory arm, IIP Processing Ltd, which will engage international due diligence companies.

The Government has discretion to heed or ignore Henley’s advice on applicants.

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