Nexia BT, the audit firm that set up Panama companies for two top government officials, has been given a concession to promote the government’s residence programme in the Middle East.
The residency and visa scheme, not to be confused with the government’s passport sale scheme, grants applicants a Malta residence permit and visa-free travel throughout the Schengen area.
Applicants are made to pay a €30,000 “contribution”. Concessionaires under the residence programme receive €10,000 per successful applicant.
On July 5, Nexia BT published a news item on its website, saying it had received the concession to promote the scheme in the Middle East.
Replying to questions by this newspaper, Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship, Julia Farrugia, said Nexia BT had been made concessionaires in August 2016, following a public competition through a request for proposals issued in November 2015.
No appeals were lodged by the competing companies, Ms Farrugia said.
The firm’s managing partner, Brian Tonna, has in the past described himself as a “close friend” of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.
When Mr Schembri and then energy minister Konrad Mizzi failed to declare their offshore set-ups with local tax authorities, Nexia BT had taken the blame for failing to advise them on this requirement.
On July 4, the government published a legal notice with a number of changes to the residence programme.
Ms Farrugia said the changes to the programme would further bolster its benefits, in that prospective applicants would be given the opportunity to live in Malta without the need to travel abroad for a specific time period.
Applicants under the residence programme are made to invest €250,000 in government bonds and to buy or rent property anywhere on the Maltese islands.
Properties in Malta need to have a minimum value of €320,000, or €270,000 in Gozo and the south of Malta or annual rental value of €12,000 in Malta and €10,000 in Gozo and the south of Malta.
In order to prove eligibility for the scheme, an applicant must also make an affidavit saying that from the date of the application onwards he/she has either an annual income of not less than €100,000 arising outside of Malta or possesses capital of no fewer than €500,000.
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