Passport Papers | Junior minister was Henley’s OPM contact to avoid client ‘grief’

Parliamentary Secretary for citizenship Alex Muscat was named by Henley & Partners as their 'contact person' inside the Office of the Prime Minister

Alex Muscat
Alex Muscat

Alex Muscat, now Parliamentary Secretary for citizenship, was named by Henley & Partners as their “contact person” inside the Office of the Prime Minister.

Muscat would ensure a “positive experience” for a client submitting to the application process for Maltese citizenship through the Individual Investor Programme, with the Maltese government helping the IIP’s concessionaires to “minimize grief to clients.”

This grief included being chased by journalists.

Muscat insists he had “no role” in the passports-for-cash scheme itself.

Emails seen by this newsroom, which formed part of a cache of internal H&P documents obtained by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, shows Muscat had made the necessary arrangements for a client flying to Malta on a private jet.

Henley were keen to avoid any “grief” for their client by having the press film his arrival, as had happened with other rich applicants.

In one email, a Henley Estates (HE) official emails various Henley principals, including CEO Eric Major and chairman Christian Kalin, informing them that a British client would be arriving in Malta on 11 March 2014 for the issuance of his residence permit.

“He will be flying in by private jet and as a result of this, I wanted to alert you that he may experience interest from the media.  From my experience with a client last weekend who flew in on a private aircraft – the press were tipped off and then tried to follow the clients (we had security arranged so disruption was minimal),” she wrote.

The HE official asked what arrangements had been made “in order for the issuance of permit to proceed unhindered and for any guidance on how to ensure his visit is as smooth as possible.”

Major replied, pointing out Alex Muscat, then policy coordinator at the OPM, as their contact person inside Castille.

His email indicates that the government was willing to help Henley smooth everything out for their short stays in Malta: “Thank you for your email. For your information, the government has kindly offered to assist us in minimizing disruption or grief when high profile clients, such as Mr *****, come to visit Malta.”

“The contact person at the OPM that you and Mr. *****’s personal assistant should contact in order to coordinate his arrival on the island is Alexander Muscat (copied), whose contact details are as follows:”

Major provided the official with Muscat’s government email and Castille office phone number.

He continued: “By copy of this email, I invite Alexander to get in contact with you so that you can discuss Mr. *****’s itinerary and consider what resources will need to be arranged to ensure a positive experience.”

Major also copied in then OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, who has since been the subject of a magisterial inquiry into allegations of kickbacks from passport sales.

No email reply from Alex Muscat could be found in the date cache.

In 2020, Muscat was appointed junior minister for citizenship in the Abela administration, responsible for the successor to the IIP.

He was asked as to whether his previous role as a “contact person” for Henley led to a conflict of interest, and if it was ethical for an OPM official to shield private clients from public media attention.

“The Parliamentary Secretary had no role in the IIP programme. Rather, he served at the Office of the Prime Minister, who aimed to attract foreign direct investment from various high net worth clients who had passed the necessary due diligence requirements,” a spokesperson for Muscat said.

“One particular threat to this investment was the incessant harassment carried out exclusively by the Nationalist Party, as in the instance referred to by your kind self.”

This is in reference to the email claiming a passport client being “hounded” by journalists.

“The Parliamentary Secretary has never carried out personal arrangements specifically for H&P’s clients,” the spokesperson continued. “He does not carry out any duties or services related to citizenship applicants at present, other than his political and legal obligations as Parliamentary Secretary.”

This is a joint investigation by The Malta Independent, MaltaToday, and other partners, coordinated by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation. The production of this investigation was supported by a grant from the Investigative Journalism for Europe (IJ4EU) fund.

Neil Camilleri is editor of The Malta Independent