PN MEP Roberta Metsola Coldly Spurns Meeting With Malta’s Passport Sellers
'Henley & Partners’ ethos holds little regard for the values that I have spend a career fighting to defend'
Left: Henley and Partners chairman Christian Karin, Right: PN MEP Roberta Metsola
Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola has flat out refused a request for a conciliatory meeting with Henley & Partners, the concessionaires of Malta’s money-for-citizenship scheme (IIP).
In an email last week, a Henley representative tried to butter up Metsola - who has often criticised the passports scheme in the European Parliament - by touting the firm’s worldwide experience in residence and citizenship planning.
“Each year, hundreds of wealthy individuals and their advisors rely on our expertise and experience in this area,” Henley wrote. “Our firm also runs a leading government advisory practice that advises governments on the design, set-up and operation of the world’s most successful citizenship and residence-by-investment programmes. We also pride ourselves on having been present in this industry for over 20 years and having 30 offices worldwide with over 300 employees. The presence and experience has also afforded us a privileged view of the current situation in our industry and notably in Europe.”
However, Metsola rejected Henley’s olive branch, on the grounds that the the European Parliament had come out against Malta’s passport scheme four years ago, that Henley has close links with “the most unprincipled elements” in the Maltese government, that the European Parliament had come out against the scheme, and that the firm had threatened critical Maltese journalists with vexatious libel suits (so-called SLAPPs) overseas.
This was a reference to Henley’s recent threat to sue The Shift News and journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia before her assassination. In this latter case, Caruana Galizia had reported that Henley had threatened to sue her after it had corresponded with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri, justice minister Owen Bonnici and Identity Malta CEO Jonathan Cardona.
Henley also recently threatened to sue two Swiss media outlets - Handelszeitung and Le Temps - after they suggested the citizenship firm was involved in Caruana Galizia's assassination. Both media outlets removed the articles in question after receiving those threats.
“As a MEP, I will continue to help attract foreign investment to Malta, but it must be investment that is sustainable, in keeping with our value system and one that benefits the people of Malta and protects the hard-earned reputation of our island…selling passports ticks none of these boxes,” Metsola wrote. “The little regard Henley and Partners’ ethos holds for the values that I have spend a career fighting to defend, coupled with the company’s reported close links to the most unprincipled elements in Joseph Muscat’s administration, and Henley’s insistence on threatening Maltese media houses - mean that should we meet, there would be really very little for me to say except to again reiterate that I will continue to stand up for media freedom in Malta, push for EU Anti-SLAPP legislation and continue to oppose the sale of citizenship.”
Henley & Partners last year declared between €200,000 and €300,000 in lobbying expenses at the European Parliament.
Malta is currently looking to renew the sale-of-citizenship scheme after approaching its cap of 1,800 citizens. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat today indicated that Malta needs to renew the IIP to make up for an expected shortfall of money when the country’s current EU funding programme expires in 2020.
“We will continue working to get investment from the EU but we will have our fall back position,” Muscat said. “Globalisation is like a treadmill, you can’t say you are tired because the second you stop, you will fall of.”
Polish MEP Dariusz Rosati this week urged the European Commission to look into Malta's passport scheme, warning it is being used by Russian oligarchs to dodge EU sanctions imposed on Russia over its interference in Ukraine.