A number of millionaires who have applied for Maltese citizenship under the cash-for-passports scheme appear to be living in modest flats in areas like Birżebbuġa, Mellieħa, St Paul’s Bay and Mġarr.
More doubts were raised on whether these millionaire citizens are actually living in Malta after the Panama Papers showed that Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca actively touted the cash-for-passport scheme’s law easy residence requirements.
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said in reply to a question tabled in Parliament last month that, by the end of April, 116 applicants had rented property with an “investment” of €12.2 million over a five-year period.
A further 27 applicants bought property with a total “investment” of €25.4 million, Dr Bonnici said.
One of these ‘investors’ is Chinese billionaire Liu Zhongtian, a former member of the National People’s Congress who made his fortune in the aluminium trade.
A due diligence process carried out by Mossack Fonseca for a company set up in the British Virgin Islands described Mr Liu as being the eighth richest person in China.
Despite his fortune, Mr Liu’s registered address is a modest-looking first floor flat in Naxxar.
Birżebbuġa plays host to a Kazakh applicant together with two Russians who are all squeezed into a small-looking flat close to the village centre.
An Azeri and Russian applicant chose to make a flat in Mġarr their home while two other Russians opted for a flat in St Paul’s Bay.
E-mails uncovered in the Panama Papers show how Mossack Fonseca advised one client that the Maltese citizenship scheme is “the fastest”.
“After one year of having a temporary visa you are granted full citizenship,” one e-mail read.
The government had to amend the scheme a number of times when it was first introduced. One of the amendments, insisted upon by the European Commission, was proof of “effective residence” over a 12-month period in order for the applicant to have a “genuine link” with Malta.
The PN is challenging in court the granting of the right to vote to a number of applicants who it says had not lived in Malta for a minimum six-month period.
Another legal battle is brewing after Identity Malta rescinded the residence permit of a Chilean passport applicant who is wanted in his home country on fraud charges.
Chilean millionaire Alberto Chang told the Times of Malta last week he intended to take legal action against Identity Malta. He said the State agency revoked his residence permit without even offering him a meeting or giving a specific reason for its decision.