Restricting the number of successful applicants seeking to buy Maltese passports should be stopped and the programme should be reviewed every five years, the government has been told.
The recommendation was made by Eric Major who was CEO of Henley & Partners until last June.
Henley & Partners is the concessionaire managing the cash-for-passports scheme, officially known as the Individual Investor Programme.
Mr Major made submissions on behalf of a recently-established firm called Latitude Residency and Citizenship, of which he is a founding partner.
Launched in 2014, the IIP had been capped at 1,800 applicants but the government recently announced its intention to extend the programme further and is inviting stakeholders to put forward their ideas.
Mr Major is proposing that the number of successful applicants should be left at the government’s discretion.
“Whilst there is merit in ensuring a regular re-adjustment of the programme, as is currently undertaken, it need not be driven by the expiry of an application cap. Rather, the government should make it policy to review and adjust the programme every five years or so to ensure it remains fit for purpose,” he said.
Mr Major is also calling for an upward revision of the IIP contributions, albeit not for the main applicant, who at present has to fork out €650,000. However, in the case of dependents, the proposal is to double the contribution for both the spouse and any dependants under 18 years, up from €25,000 to €50,000. Furthermore, for the main applicant’s parents and any dependents over 18, the fee should go up from €50,000 to €75,000.
Under this proposal a family of five would make a ‘donation’ of €900,000 rather than €800,000.
One of the most radical ideas being put forward by Latitude Residency and Citizenship is to hold “an annual gala event” hosted by the Prime Minister in honour of the successful applicants in a bid to entice them to foster more business opportunities.
Another suggestion is to abolish the requirement to purchase €150,000 in government bonds or stocks, the reasoning being that such obligation yields no real economic benefit and Malta has no challenge funding its current debt stock.
According to the government, two thirds of the allocations have been taken up, generating €590 million in direct payments to the State coffers.
Part of the sum, €360 million, was deposited in the National Development and Social Fund and more than €155 million went into the consolidated fund.
Mr Major pointed out that “the biggest missing piece” of the IIP was the lack of public information on the decisions and investments made by the fund.
Mr Major took a dig at his former employer, Henley & Partners, saying the four per cent commission on all money deposited in the fund should not go to the concessionaire alone but be distributed evenly among all authorised international marketing agents.
Such agents should be made to pay an annual €25,000 fee and satisfy a set of criteria to ensure they had the right expertise to handle the applications, he added.
It transpired that by the end of last June the concessionaire had already raked in more than €19 million in commissions from the IIP.