Source: Alice Taylor
A massive leak of documents from cash-for-passports concessionaire Henley and Partners has been investigated, analyzed, and published by a consortium of international journalists.
Henley & Partners is the same company that was potentially working with the Albanian government to introduce a cash-for-passport scheme in the country. Exit saw a video of Prime Minister Edi Rama at a Henley & Partners’ event in London where he joked about communism and said he planned to sell Albanian passports to wealthy investors, in the full knowledge that the EU and European Commission would not be happy about it.
Today’s revelations come from The Shift News in Malta, The Guardian in the UK, a selection of other Maltese newsrooms, and The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation set up after the assassination of the Maltese investigative journalist by the same name. She had been investigating both Henley and the Maltese scheme before and at the time of her murder.
The Shift News revealed that many of the applicants for Malta’s scheme came from Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China- countries where it’s either illegal or “treacherous” to acquire a second passport. They showed examples of clients that applied for Maltese citizenship despite it being completely prohibited by law in their native country or requiring ‘special permission’ which was not presented.
Henley & Partners claimed it’s not their responsibility to give advice on laws in any country. They added they abide by all laws in the countries it operates in and that the onus on the dual citizenship issue lies with the Maltese government.
The Shift found that some of these applicants then went on to rent property in Malta which was wholly unsuitable for their needs. The rules of the passport programme state that a property must be rented or purchased for a specific price and be held for a period of five years. Applicants are also required to reside in the country for a year, before receiving citizenship.
Documents in the leak revealed that some applicants just didn’t care and had no intention of living in Malta or establishing a genuine link. When asked how much they wanted to spend on an apparent, by Henley, an applicant replied “I don’t care. What is least expensive and complies w/programme.”
As for the properties they rented, several examples were found whereby there were as many as 12 people supposedly living in a tiny, two-bedroom apartment. Others, who lived in luxury private compounds in Riyadh, rented modestly furnished properties on Maltese side-streets, clearly having no intention of staying there.
Another article, published by Lovin Malta, revealed that Henley had written agreements with Cambridge Analytica’s owner and CEO. Three separate agreements were discovered, the first of which was signed in 2010 between Henley and Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. It stated that Henley would act as a political introducer to SCL in relation to developing and rolling out business in countries where it hadn’t yet been activated.
Cambridge Analytica went on to be implicated in a scandal whereby it was found they had utilized the data of millions of Facebook users to help politicians and political parties influence the outcome of elections.
Henley said they have no knowledge of the agreements and said even if they did exist, they were not implemented. The agreements themselves, state they are valid for a 60-month period.
Suspicions have long been raised that Cambridge Analytica was somehow involved in the 2013 Malta general elections. British Parliament said they had evidence that SCL met with the now ex-Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat prior to his win in 2013, and the subsequent introduction of the Malta cash-for-passports program a few months later.
Following outrage from the EU and EC that Albania may consider selling passports, there has been no further information on whether the Rama government plans to continue with the plan.
Questions sent to the government on whether they met with Henley & Partners prior to the 2013 or 2017 election, or had any meetings with SCL or Cambridge Analytica have been ignored.