Economy Minister Silvio Schembri has defended Malta’s sale-of-citizenship scheme in the wake of the Passports Papers investigation, arguing that the funds it generated served as a lifeline throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Most of the funds the scheme generates go straight to a sovereign wealth fund and the pandemic made us dip into those savings,” Schembri said in response to questions from journalists today.
“Imagine if we didn’t have a substantial amount of money saved up in these coffers; we’d have had to obtain financing through other means to sustain the wage supplement and other aid schemes,” he said.
“We could have done that but it would have meant the country would have had to hold back from certain investments.”
“However,” he continued, “we had the foresight to set up a reserve fund, and these funds proved very useful to ensure the government could spend money without burdening the people of Malta through new taxes.”
Earlier today, a consortium of Maltese and international media houses coordinated by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation published a range of stories following a leak of data from Henley & Partners, the concessionaire of Malta’s Individual Investor Programme.
The data revealed how citizenship buyers found loopholes to avoid the requirement obliging them to live in Malta for at least a year, how Henley & Partners had agreements with the people behind the controversial former big data firm Cambridge Analytica, and how a Saudi royal managed to remove his name from the government gazette following a meeting with then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.