Polish MEP Dariusz Rosati has raised concerns with the European Commission about Malta’s “golden passport” scheme, which he said was being used by Russian oligarchs to avoid sanctions.
Mr Rosati said that apart from allowing foreign billionaires to launder money and threaten the Schengen system’s integrity, such a scheme could also be used as a backdoor for Russian oligarchs to avoid sanctions linked to the aggressive actions of Russia in Ukraine.
He pointed to media reports stating that many of the “new Maltese” were Russian, including various oligarchs.
The MEP asked the Commission if it planned to again look at EU passport sale schemes. He also asked what steps the Commission could take if it saw that the passport scheme was being misused.
Roberta Metsola, who comes from the same political group as Mr Rosati, told the Times of Malta the cash-for-passports scheme was again raising questions for all the wrong reasons.
Dr Metsola said it was abundantly clear that the 12-month residency period was being blatantly ignored, with many of Malta’s new citizens spending just a few hours on the island.
She said the potential money laundering and security risks were real and must be addressed.
The State’s anti-money-laundering agency has gone on record with MEPs in saying that the scheme carried certain risks.
Dr Metsola insisted that selling passports in this manner was selling rights, and the rights associated with being a Maltese and EU citizen must simply never be put up for sale to the highest bidder.
The government last week launched a consultation survey about the scheme.
The first question in the survey is whether the number of applicants to the scheme should be legally capped, or whether this should be decided at the sole discretion of the government.
Dr Metsola called the online survey a sham that would undoubtedly be used to show whatever the government wished it to.
In response to the official survey, local activists Il-Kenniesa have launched their own survey, in which they ask whether the scheme should be extended in the first place.
The survey includes other questions not found in the government survey, including whether Maltese are concerned about the rise in property prices due to the scheme and trust in the due diligence process, as well as issues of transparency and security.