Malta’s sale-of-citizenship scheme has run afoul of more negative international press, with the BBC running a report into how new Maltese citizens rent apartments on the island without ever stepping foot into them.
BBC journalist Simon Tulett visited Malta to report on the Individual Investor Programme, which requires applicants to pay €650,000 to the government as well as to either buy a property worth at least €350,000 or to rent a property out for at least €16,000 over five years.
As the report notes, the vast majority are opting to rent apartments, the cheaper alternative that will put them back €80,000 over five years, consequently inflating rent prices for people who actually live in Malta.
Worse, some of the passport buyers are apparently not even bothering to ensure that they are getting value for their money.
“Presumably, their apartments are pretty swanky, right? Wrong,” Tulett says.
To investigate this phenomenon, Simon Tulett met up with Malta’s journalist-blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia and the two drove to a basement apartment being rented by Vladimir Fartushnyak, co-owner of the major Russian sports retail chain Sportsmaster and now a Maltese citizen.
The entire report was conducted on radio, meaning viewers didn’t get a chance to view the apartment – that Caruana Galizia has already written about – with their own eyes. Yet their conversation leaves little to the imagination.
“Do you expect a billionaire to be living there?” Caruana Galizia asks. “It was built in the late 60s and looks like it hasn’t been painted since, and there are telephone wires tucked in the facade. The citizenship buyers who want to live in Malta are buying houses and living there, but those who have no interest in ever setting foot here simply just need an address on a piece of paper.”
Tulett presses the buzzer on the apartment and comments: “We buzzed Flat no. 10 again but..you guessed it, Mr Fartushnyak wasn’t in. Yet his presence is being felt in other ways, and Malta’s Central Bank says that the IIP is one of the factors pushing up house prices by 7% each year and rent by abut 10%.”