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'Prostitution of Schengen’: MEP Ana Gomes slams passport scheme

Socialist MEP emphasises her concerns about cash-for-passport schemes

Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes has attacked Malta’s cash-for-passports scheme, calling it “prostitution of the Schengen system”.

“It’s total prostitution of the Schengen system since countries advertise Schengen as a prized object,” Ms Gomes said during a discussion on a report on the scheme.

Countries within the Schengen system have abolished passport and all other types of control at mutual borders. Malta has been part of the system since 2007.

A Transparency International report on the so-called Individual Investor Programme issued on Wednesday found several shortcomings, including insufficient due diligence, wide discretionary powers and conflicts of interest.

The report warned that, despite a four-tier due diligence process in Malta, government officials enjoyed wide discretion on eligibility, noting that applicants with criminal records or subject to criminal investigation could still be considered due to “special circumstances”. 

Ana Gomes. Photo: WikipediaAna Gomes. Photo: Wikipedia

Scheme impacted all EU members

The government hit back, saying the report was not wholly accurate and was “inadequately researched”. It also noted that recommendations listed in the report were already in place.

But for Ms Gomes the scheme was “highly immoral”.

“It’s not true that it brings prosperity to the country,” she said. “It may bring prosperity to some segments, namely the authority that has been tasked with delivering the golden visas. However, it completely destroys the housing market,” she noted.

Such schemes were also “extremely opaque”, Ms Gomes remarked, criticising Henley and Partners, which run the scheme, and pointing out that the company had taken legal action against Daphne Caruana Galizia.

She lambasted the authorities for refusing to let migrants in but then accepting people who could purchase so-called “golden visas” access. The Maltese authorities have blocked ports to rescue ships operated by NGOs for months.

Global Witness representative Rachel Owens said EU citizens remained largely in the dark about the schemes.

Encouraging the authorities not to be “dazzled by profit”, she noted that the effects of the scheme impacted all EU members. “The debate (on cash-for-passports schemes), however fierce, cannot advance toward productive results without transparency and consultation regarding the risks and rewards, for the EU,” she said.

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