Did Malta’s Cash For Passports Scheme Damage Putin More Than We Thought?
Bloomberg report says Russia's business elite are buying Maltese passports to detach themselves from Kremlin
Some of Russia’s wealthiest businessmen are purchasing Maltese citizenship through the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) as an insurance policy in case things go belly up between themselves and Vladimir Putin, a Bloomberg report has suggested.
Over 700 wealthy Russians have purchased Maltese citizenship so far - including Arkady Volozh, owner of Russia’s largest search engine Yandex, Alexey De-Monderik, co-founder of major cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, and Alexander Mechatin, CEO of Russia’s largest private spirits company Beluga Group.
Bloomberg reported that the interest shown by Russia’s wealthiest businessmen in the IIP will drive home an uncomfortable truth to Putin - that the country’s business elite do not feel attached to his “besieged fortress project”.
“Yandex has been generally cooperative with the Kremlin, as CEO Herman Gref of Sberbank, Russia's biggest state bank, has sat on its board since 2014,” the report reads. “Volozh, however, clearly doesn't feel entirely secure as a key figure in Russia's tech sector. He obtained Maltese citizenship for his entire family.”
Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh, now a Maltese citizen
“Russia’s business elite aren’t emigrating, and their Russian business interests will prevent them from expressing open disloyalty to the Kremlin. But they are unwilling to put all their eggs in Putin's basket, which is a source of constant annoyance for him.”
“The people on the Maltese government's list have few reasons to fear sanctions since they're not part of Putin's inner circle or large government contractors. But they would be imprudent not to think about fallback options in case someone from that circle or Russia's fearsome law enforcement machine moves against them. There's little Putin can do about that: In the system he has built, not even he can fully hold back the greed of his friends and enforcers.”
The report goes on to mention how Putin had reacted to the EU’s Ukraine-related sanctions in 2014 by offering Russian businessmen a two-year amnesty to repatriate their funds. However, the amnesty proved unpopular, with only some 2,500 Russians opting to declare and repatriate their foreign assets.