Those who don’t like the passport scheme should go back to their country. No, wait...

The Skinny | No 84 – From Golden Passport to Golden Shower

What are we skinning? The journalistic skewering of Malta’s former ‘cash-for-passports’ agents, Henley & Partners, occasioned by a generous leak of fresh data on its lax advice to its prospective clients when it comes to establishing ‘genuine links’ to the host country

Why are we skinning it? Because it has once again exposed the prickly fault lines of the scheme, and laid bare the vulnerabilities of Malta’s reputation in this regard.

But according to this leak, did Malta do anything illegal? The question of whether or not Malta, or even Henley and Partners themselves, did anything illegal is both to the point and not.

You’re being all lawyer-y now. Well yes, the legalistic mire of this question requires us to face that labyrinth head on.

Okay. To wit, the leak has as much to do with ethics and reputation as it has to do with legality.

So it’s not illegal to sell citizenship? No, but let’s just say it’s not exactly a good look… and it’s certainly not a look that Malta can afford to put on, much less post-2017.

But isn’t it unfair to single out Malta on this when other countries - even EU countries - do the exact same thing? It is unfair. But the reputation game is a tough arena for a small island that everyone is dying to label as a banana republic… even more so when it’s got a recently murdered journalist on your CV.

Yeah but I don’t like playing the victim card either. Yes, this is why it’s interesting. Once again, this is an indictment of a very specific facet of the Joseph Muscat years…

Which facet, exactly? Apparently all but running blindly towards whichever source of easy money is most readily to hand.

And if something looks too good to be true… It will most probably blow up in your face, yes.

Once again, the unveiling of Henley & Partners’ inner workings is tied with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s investigative work, which was brutally cut short in 2017. Yes, it stands as yet another upsetting - if not downright chilling - reminder that were it not for the increased scrutiny on local power structures that came about as a result of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, a lot of the scandalous underpinnings of Malta’s political and economic structures would have been allowed to continue purring and puttering their merry way along, with us none the wiser.

But the economy minister said the passport scheme helped cushion the blow of the pandemic. That’s not reassurance. That’s blackmail.

Do say: “Rushing to jeer and point fingers to Malta in its attempts to boost its economy through legal but ethically muddled methods may be a tad facile, but opting for a scheme like IIP is bound to attract negative attention, and complaining about said attention just comes across as churlish at best.”

Don’t say: “Those who don’t like the passport scheme should go back to their country. No, wait…”