Feedback on whether the public agrees with extending Malta’s controversial cash-for-passports scheme is still being “analysed”, according to the government website dedicated to public consultations.

Citizenship Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia, who is responsible for the scheme, told the Times of Malta in September the evaluation of the public consultation was in its “final stages”.

When the scheme was first launched in 2013, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had said it would be capped at 1,800 main applicants. Four years later, Dr Muscat announced during the lead up to the June 2017 election the scheme would be extended.

The latest report by the scheme’s regulator said there had been 833 successful main applicants until the end of June 2018. 

The public was asked in January 2018 whether applications under the Individual Investor Programme, as the scheme is formally known, should be capped at law or be left at the government’s discretion.

This relates not only to the legal framework

To receive a Maltese passport, IIP applicants must fork out €650,000 and provide a €150,000 investment in government stocks or bonds as well as satisfy property requirements and pass Identity Malta’s due diligence procedures.

A 2014 “endorsement” by the European Commission has long been used to market the scheme. Dr Muscat insisted the scheme had been endorsed “in writing” by the Commission. But this was dismissed by a Commission spokesman earlier this month.

A Commission report on citizenship and residency schemes across the EU found that although the residence requirement existed in legislation, in practice the requirement for applicants to physically reside in Malta was not verified sufficiently.

As set out in the report, the Commission was examining whether or not such schemes were in line with EU rules, a spokesman said. “This relates not only to the legal framework governing the scheme but also to its application”, he pointed out.

Henley & Partners, the scheme’s concessionaire, has earned over €28 million between 2014 and 2018 from passport sales. Part of the money paid by foreigners buying EU citizenship are ring-fenced in a national development fund.

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