The chief executive of Henley & Partners – the company behind Malta’s sale-of-citizenship scheme – has insisted his close relationship with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is perfectly normal.
“We work with governments and opposition parties all around the world and when you work with someone, you develop a working relationship with them,” Christian Kalin said in an interview on Investment Migration Insider. “It is normal in business, but the only thing here is that the business partner is a country and therefore a political leader.”
The closeness between Kalin, Muscat and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri was revealed by assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia last year, when she published correspondence between the two regarding Kalin’s plan to sue her for libel in the UK courts. Kalin’s email was addressed to “Keith, Joseph” in that order and sent to their private @josephmuscat.com emails. However, Keith Schembri’s email was, allegedly accidentally, at one point sent to his official government email address – which sent the whole chain of emails to the government server.
The correspondence was leaked to Daphne Caruana Galizia last year
In his interview, Kalin said he believes Henley’s servers were hacked and the emails leaked to Caruana Galizia.
“Malta has a very politicised environment and politicians get attacked for everything, including the way they dress,” he said. “We don’t have anything to do with this vicious environment except that we know these guys [Muscat and Schembri] very well. People came up with all kinds of ridiculous stories, that sound juicy to the uninitiated observer but are actually non-issues. Obviously, we are on very good terms with the Maltese Prime Minister just as we are on very good terms with the Prime Ministers of all the other smaller countries we work with.”
Responding to backlash at the Individual Investor Partnership scheme, Kalin admitted some bad apples might fall through the cracks of due diligence but said the passport scheme allows the government to scrap the citizenship of rogue IIP citizens.
“We have a lot of work to do to improve our due diligence, but it’s normal that some of our clients might not be good people,” he said. “It’s just like when a private bank has 1000 clients and five of those aren’t good people. The bank might have developed a relationship with those five people, but that’s just like everything else in life.”
However, he claimed a lot of the backlash against the sale-of-citizenship scheme all boiled down to envy at its success, confirmation biases and the political agenda of critical journalists.
“There’s a spectrum of actors ranging from professional law firms to crooks and idiots who feed information to the press in an attempt to harm us,” he said. “The press in turn have no hesitation in fabricating news and putting things together that don’t make sense but might look strange to the uninitiated observer.”
However, he confidently claimed that Henley & Partners has grown too big to fail and that more and more countries will soon develop similar sale-of-citizenship schemes.
“When we first started out, people had laughed at us. But just as Gandhi had said: First they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.”