Ex-F1 champion, singer want Maltese passports

Government forges ahead with scheme despite EU criticism

A former Formula 1 world champion, an international pop singer and a prominent Gulf royal family member are among those interested in applying for a Maltese passport, The Sunday Times of Malta has learnt.

Hundreds had already expressed interest in the scheme, with some putting forward deposits, Henley and Partners CEO Eric Major told The Sunday Times of Malta. He revealed that applications will officially go out on the international market by the end of this week. A South American footballer, an American press magnate and a Singaporean business tycoon have also put their names forward for the controversial scheme, which earned the rebuke of the European Parliament last Thursday.

Meanwhile, a Chinese billionaire, founder of the largest independent brokerage firm in China, flew into Malta yesterday afternoon to meet Henley representatives to discuss the prospect of Maltese citizenship.

Ignoring scathing criticism from Europe, Malta is forging ahead and charging wealthy foreigners €1.15 million euros in return for a Maltese passport.

Foreigners would need to make a €650,000 donation, a minimum €350,000 property acquisition and €150,000 purchase of government bonds.

The government is proceeding despite the fact that the European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a motion which said citizenship must not have a price tag attached to it. The European Commission is also looking into the possibility of launching infringement procedures against Malta.

EU ‘has no legal case’ to institute any action

A spokeswoman for the EU Justice Commissioner said although it was the prerogative of each state to decide on citizenship, Malta’s scheme was a gateway to the rights enjoyed by EU citizens and the Commission was seeking legal advice.

Dismissing claims that the scheme did not comply with EU rules, Mr Major, whose company is managing the scheme, said that five to 10 per cent of interested applicants so far had been turned down based on an initial online verification process.

“This is by far the most attractive scheme for a particular market segment. The fact that it’s not tied to residency is an important part, but Malta is also attractive for its financial incentives, the lifestyle, EU privileges and of course the weather,” he said.

A government spokesman said yesterday Malta had no intention of amending the scheme for the time being, despite broad calls to tie in residency with the application. The spokesman said yesterday that the EU had no legal case to institute infringement proceedings.

“We’ve consulted our lawyers who stressed that citizenship is the competency of each member state. We will, of course, abide by EU regulations, but if the EU is going to regulate, then it needs to regulate each member state,” the spokesman said.

He said the government had spoken to ambassadors of EU countries, and insisted member states had no problem with its “International Investor Programme”.


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