PM comes out in defence of golden passports scheme

Robert Abela defended Malta's citizenship-by-investment programme for having provided government with a stable cash flow

Prime Minister Robert Abela has defended Malta's citizenship-by-investment scheme, saying that it has provided the country with an abundance of wealth.

He said that the programme has raked in €1.5 billion throughout the years, a large majority of which sits in the National Development and Social Fund.

"People can experience this wealth and see how through that fund, over the past 14 months of the pandemic, we've been able to remain supportive of businesses.

Asked about the concerns raised regarding the 'genuine links' to Malta presented by IIP applicants, Abela said that the law is clear about what genuine links constitute, and that there are several ways through which genuine links can be proved.

"We've strengthened the regulations that affect this programme. We've increased due diligence, strengthened surveillance which was already robust, continue to strenghten this and now we have a programme with all the necessary checks in place," he said.

"Do we want this programme scrapped for good, or should we try, with all the safeguards in place, to continue to enjoy the wealth this programme has brought in?"

On Sunday, MaltaToday and The Malta Independent revealed how some applicants of the Individual Investor Programme used pastizzi receipts and parking tickets as proof of a genuine link to Malta.

READ ALSO: Pastizzi from Serkin, Red Bull from Havana: the 'genuine links' of the IIP

Those clients saw their application reviewed successfully, and eventually obtained Maltese citizenship.

These dubious genuine links are still promoted by Henley & Partners. An undercover investigation by The Guardian revealed how Maltese government still accepts a three-week stay in the country as sufficient evidence of a genuine link to Malta.

The British media house further revealed how most clients end up staying at hotels during their trips to Malta, despite owning rental properties on the islands.