Investor scheme slated

Investor scheme slated

Fears that US could revoke the visa waiver

Nuri Katz

Nuri Katz

The Government’s proposed Citizenship Scheme is “unprecedented, amateurish and extremely flawed” according to a Canadian immigration consultant who also runs a firm offering advice on obtaining second citizenship.

The Individual Investor Programme, which will be put to the vote in this evening’s parliamentary session, will make it possible for foreign investors to acquire Maltese citizenship for €650,000. However, in an interview with Times of Malta Nuri Katz – president of Apex Capital Partners Corporation which charges tens of thousands of euros to guide clients through the citizenship-by-investment application process – slated the Malta scheme.

The consultant, whose experience in this field stretches more than 20 years, was highly critical of the fact that Henley and Partners, who are referred to as the concessionaires, will be entrusted with processing the appli-cations, saying such a setup was unprecedented.

Probed about his keen interest in this issue or any possible vested interest, Mr Katz immediately made it clear he was not among those who had registered their interest following a public call made by the Government last June. He said that he was concerned that this scheme “has crossed the borders of decency and is putting at risk all citizenship programmes around the world”.

He also said that as soon as the US Homeland Security Department became aware that “the immigration ministry has outsourced the issue of passports to a private foreign company”, it might revoke the visa waiver programme.

On Monday, Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia, who moved the second reading of this Bill, sought to allay such fears saying that the Maltese Government would still have the final say over citizenship.

However, Mr Katz countered that the Government would still base its decision on the recommendation given by Henley, which would be carrying out the due diligence.

“The idea of a concessionaire is completely new, and even the Caribbean islands turned it down. Coincidentally, Henley had made that proposal some years back,” said Mr Katz. He added that the whole idea of a company getting paid for accepting applications when it is directly involved in their validation was conflicting and dangerous.

He also claimed the Maltese law “plagiarised” similar legislation enacted in the Caribbean state of St Kitts and Nevis, where citizenship can be bought for as little as €200,000, whereas Cyprus requires at least €3 million.

Mr Katz said that no country in the world had a system like the one being proposed in Malta, in which the applications were received by a private foreign company rather than the Government. He also said that the proposed Bill did not oblige the concessionaire to hand over the file with all relevant information to Identity Malta; it simply put forward its recommendation.

“Never in the history of the world has such a thing happened, that a company makes recommendations to accept its own clients.” He added that the Government had to be the sole gatekeeper.

Mr Katz also raised questions about the practice of Henley receiving the fees, saying the money should go directly into a government account as in other countries.

“Is the concessionaire more trustworthy than the Government?” he said. Mr Katz added that in its call the Government had indicated that the contract with the preferred bidder would have to be finalised by August 30. Yet a month later Henley was already sending invitations, bearing the coat of arms of the Maltese Government, for the launch of the scheme in London tomorrow.

This newspaper sought confirmation from the Office of the Prime Minister about this event, but no reply was received last night.

Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus