Updated at 2pm
Revenue from the sale of passports is expected to reach €50 million next year, €14 million more than in 2019, according to the 2020 Budget estimates.
The increase represents an annual 39 per cent rise, but the data has to be taken with a degree of caution as the revenue figures for 2019 and 2020 are estimates. In 2018, revenue from the so-called Individual Investor Programme was €44 million.
According to the latest data published by the IIP regulator, up to June 30, 2017, the scheme had left €408 million in the coffers of the National Development and Social Fund, €174 million in the consolidated fund, €35 million for the agency running the scheme and €28 million to Henley & Partners, the scheme’s concessionaire.
Launched in 2014, the scheme has been mired in controversy from the start amid concerns it could be abused by shady “investors” with no genuine link to Malta, whose only intention is to use the island as a gateway to the European Union.
Last month, a law firm authorised to sell passports had its licence suspended until further notice in the wake of damning footage broadcast on a French television station.
In the video, a senior partner of the firm was filmed by TV station M6 saying he could make use of his political connections to serve clients seeking to acquire Maltese citizenship, especially those whose application had been refused for failing the due diligence test.
The law firm insisted it “never broke the law” or “spoke to politicians to illegally intervene on our clients’ behalf”.
Though the incident rekindled the controversy and calls for the scheme to be scrapped, the government seems to have no such intention as highlighted by the fact that it is expecting to rake in more funds in 2020.
In a statement on Saturday, the Nationalist Party said it was against the programme and wanted it suspended with immediate effect.
The PN cited a report by The Shift News which said that an Israeli investor who bought a Maltese passport in 2016 was facing fraud charges in the US.
"This was the fifth such case," the PN said, adding that such cases discredited claims about the stringent and thorough nature of the IIP's four-tier due diligence process.
The government has repeatedly insisted the budget surplus registered in recent years was not the result of IIP proceeds but came through other measures.
From the financial estimates it also transpires that the government is estimating an increase in revenue from other schemes targeting foreign investors such as the residency scheme and the visa programme. In this case, estimated revenue is almost expected to double from €7 million in 2019 to €13 million in 2020.
Furthermore, Identity Malta, a state agency which handles citizenship services apart from the IIP, is estimated to increase its revenue from €10.5 million to €15 million.