A Russian company run by a Maltese passport buyer has been suspended from trading on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

The company, Polyus, is run by Pavel Grachev, a Russian millionaire who bought a Maltese passport in 2017.

Polyus was one of 27 Russian-linked companies that the LSE announced on Thursday that it suspended from trading “in light of market conditions, and in order to maintain orderly markets”.

Polyus advertises itself as a national gold mining champion in Russia. The company says it is the largest gold producer in Russia and among the top ten producers globally.

Western countries have increasingly sought to isolate Russian financial interests abroad in response to the country’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the Maltese government bowed to pressure to suspend passport sales to rich Russians.

How did Grachev get a Maltese passport?

The Passport Papers, a trove of leaked data from former concessionaries Henley & Partners, showed how Grachev and his family first applied for Maltese passports in 2014.

To meet the 12-month residency requirement, Grachev rented a flat at Portomaso in St Julians for €2,800 per month.

He spent less than ten hours in Malta in 2014.

According to an itinerary filed along with documents related to his residency status, during his 10-hour visit Grachev met officials at Identity Malta at 10am and visited a local bank to open an account 45 minutes later.

The Passport Papers investigation, coordinated by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, showed how the one-year residency requirement was a sham.

Millionaires looking to buy a Maltese passport would spend an average of 16 days in Malta during their mandatory one-year residency period.

The documents raise serious questions about the "genuine link" requirement introduced as part of the scheme.

They reveal how wealthy applicants could reduce the time they had to spend in Malta by joining a local club, donating to charity, buying a yacht or taking up a newspaper subscription.

In some instances, passport applicants flew in and out of Malta within 24 hours of swearing an oath of allegiance to the country, its constitution and its people.  

Malta is resisting EU pressure to scrap the scheme due to its inherent security and financial crime risks.

The government insists its due diligence on applicants is top-notch, and Maltese programme cannot be regarded as a golden passports scheme.

However, it announced on Wednesday that it was suspending the scheme to Russian and Belarussian applications due to the Ukraine invasion. 

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