IIP regulator wants only MPs to see Maltese golden passport names

Controversial recommendation to please golden passport agents who have demanded secrecy for global rich paying €1.15 million for Maltese citizenship

Carmel Degabriele said that instead of being published in the Government Gazette, the list of IIP citizens should be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny whereby the MPs having access to the data would be bound by an oath of secrecy.
Carmel Degabriele said that instead of being published in the Government Gazette, the list of IIP citizens should be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny whereby the MPs having access to the data would be bound by an oath of secrecy.

The regulator of Malta’s sale of citizenship, the Individual Investor Programme, is recommending that the names of the global rich buying passports should be made public only to MPs.

The controversial suggestion was actually made by stakeholders of the IIP, which sells passports to high net worth individuals and their families for €650,000, apart from a mandatory property purchase or lease, and investment that make the final price go up to €1.15 million.

Reacting to pressure from agents who want the names of their prized clients kept secret, the IIP regulator appears to be trying to suggest a compromise that could fall foul of democratic requirements of transparency.

“Government should consider researching alternative means that would ensure a better degree of confidentiality whilst ensuring some peace of mind to the programme’s detractors that the potential IIP citizens are being adequately scrutinised,” the IIP regulator Carmel Degabriele said.

In referring to a recommendation made by one of the agents, Degabriele said that instead of being published in the Government Gazette, the list of IIP citizens should be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny whereby the MPs having access to the data would be bound by an oath of secrecy.

That would effectively create a discriminatory, and possible illegal, differentiation between those who buy the golden passports and people who are naturalised in Malta by marriage or after having been residents here for at least 18 years.

The IIP rules make it mandatory that all names of people granted Maltese citizenship by registration or naturalisation are published in the Government Gazette.

“It has been noted that, on the one side there is concern by stakeholders about placing the names in the public domain and that, on the other side, there are allegations that the publication of the list is not enough. It is therefore clear that any aims behind the publication of the names is not being reached,” the IIP regulator said in his annual report.

“Some tend to believe and argue that the official publication of such names by the government goes against the General Data Protection Regulation unless the unconditional consent of the Main Applicant is obtained in writing a priori.”

According to Degabriele, the publication of names of IIP citizens is an “area of major concern” for agents, especially the names of the itinerant rich are given media attention or bad publicity, usually owing to some questionable backgrounds.

“According to those interviewed, the main reasons why applicants would be adverse to the publication of their names had nothing to do with allegedly having something to hide but was due to their wish to have their privacy respected and due to their fear of retaliation if their names were spotted by their detractors. Some Agents suggested that alternative means should be identified for issuing the names.”

One agent suggested that instead of publishing the names in the Government Gazette the list should be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny whereby MPs having access to the data would be bound by an Oath of secrecy. Another agent opined that given GDPR rules, applicants should be asked to give their prior consent to publication, being warned at a pre-application stage that if such consent is not given the application would be immediately turned down.

The total number of applications received by the MIIPA (since the inception of the IIP) as on 30 June 2018 stood at 1,431. The number of dependants included in the 330 applications of 2017-2018 amounted to 818, of which 243 were spouses, 398 were minor dependants and 177 were adult dependants.

In total, since the launch of the IIP, up till the end of June 2018 there have been 833 successful main applicants. Considering the limit of 1,800 main applicants for the whole duration of the IIP, the figure constitutes 46.3% of the pre-established target.

Between July 2017 and June 2018, the MIIPA was paid over €162 million, or 1.38% of the Maltese GDP; additionally, the total paid in terms of mandatory property purchases and investments amounts to €246 million.

Since the introduction of the IIP, €408 million was paid into the National Development and Social Fund; €174 million into the Consolidated Fund; €35.3 million retained by the Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency; and €28.8 million paid in commission to Henley & Partners, who devised the programme and are its concessionaires.

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