EU Commission lists risks and steps to be taken for citizenship and residential investment schemes in the EU
The report identifies risks in these schemes, particularly security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. The report concludes that due to a lack of cooperation between Member States as well as lack of transparency, these risks are increasing.
In presenting the report, the Commissioner for EU Justice, Vera Jourova, referred to Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria that permit the granting of passports for non-EU citizens who pledge to make a substantial investment in the country.
Jourova said “I invested a lot of my time and energy to understand the Maltese and Cyprus systems, I got a lot of information from the authorities but still I have to say that some of the concerns remain”.
Commissioner Jourova said points of concern regard stronger verification against money laundering as well as adequate monitoring of individuals who try to use these schemes to benefit from fiscal regulations for tax purposes.
The report includes proposals for the better governance of such schemes in a more responsible manner because the rights of citizens provide rights of free movement of people in the Schengen Zone.
Julia Farrugia Portelli, who is PS responsible for reforms and citizenship, said the Government is satisfied the Commission has acknowledged the economic benefits of the sector and considers the report to be a step in the right direction for higher standards and more coordination between countries which have such programmes.
Farrugia Portelli said she noted the positive manner the Commission had taken and also noted that what Malta has long been saying, that countries should show greater collaboration when refusal action is taken.
She said the report has some points with which the Government does not agree, including the scrutiny on prospective IIP citizens that this is less rigourous than that applied by persons who marry a Maltese partner. She said the due diligence process is recognised as being the best in the sphere while Malta’s programme conforms to EU Directives against money laundering.
Farrugia Portelli said Malta is one of the few countries that publishes the names of persons who acquire citizenship and she concluded the authorities have taken the initiative to insert measures to address the concerns mentioned in the report. She said the Government looks forward to working with a group of experts for the industry to be reinforced.
Through spokesperson Karol Aquilina, the Nationalist Party said the Commission’s report certifies that which the PN has been stating regarding the sale of passports and how this is threatening Malta’s reputation. He said that Malta’s reputation had never been under scrutiny in the past and the sale of passports has brought serious repercussions for Malta. Dr Aquilina said the PN will continue applying pressure against the sale of citizenship and pressing the Government for the safeguarding of related sectors, such as financial services.
On the other hand, the Labour Party said the Commission’s report has left the PN isolated. Although the EU Commission had made suggestions at no stage has it maintained, as Adrian Delia has, that these programmes should not exist. The statement added it is a pity that instead of the PN championing Malta and investment, it is taking a partisan attitude which the statement claims has the scope of blighting the benefit that is being attracted to Malta.