A request to publish a list of government officials who travel overseas to market Malta’s cash-for-passports scheme has been turned down because the information is too difficult to collect.
The Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency (MIIPA), which runs the scheme, refused to publish a list of those taking part in marketing events abroad organised by Henley & Partners.
It turned down two requests by Times of Malta to give a detailed list of government officials who, since 2013, have participated in Henley & Partners promotions on the sale of Maltese passports around the globe.
In its response, it quoted article 14(f) of the Freedom of Information Act that states that the resources required to get the information would “divert the resources of the public authority from its other operations”.
The list of Maltese government representatives touring the world, pitching the sale of Maltese passports, include Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, various members of his Cabinet and Jonathan Cardona and the CEO of MIIPA.
According to a concession agreement signed with Henley & Partners in 2013, the Maltese government is obliged to send its representatives in marketing conferences organised by Henley & Partners.
Dr Muscat has participated in numerous conferences, taking him from Singapore to the US, and is already listed as the main speaker at the next global conference to be held in London this November.
Times of Malta is informed that as well as high-profile politicians, MIIPA regularly sends officials abroad to participate in H&P events as part of its efforts to sell more Maltese passports.
A formal complaint has been lodged with the Data Protection Commissioner for an investigation.
Times of Malta insisted that since the government agency is involved in the administration and marketing of a government programme and public funds are involved, the public has a right to know who is representing Malta abroad in these commercial activities.
In July, Times of Malta reported that despite his continuous personal participation in Henley & Partners events, Dr Muscat is not being paid for his speeches by the global firm.
The Office of the Prime Minister had confirmed that although Dr Muscat is a guest of Henley & Partners, all expenses related to travel and accommodation are funded by Maltese taxpayers.
Previously, two BBC journalists were forced to ditch their participation in November’s Henley & Partners annual conference due to the negative reputation surrounding the sale of passports.
Despite having been offered a fee of €25,000 for their speech, their agent said they had declined the offer and pulled out of the event as “it is absolutely clear that (the conference) is not something that our clients should be associated with.”