Malta no longer sells passports to millionaires from Russia and Belarus at the moment. The government gives the reason that “recent developments” make it impossible to check the background of potential buyers.
The decision comes after years of fierce criticism from home and abroad over the sale of passports. Trade is profitable for Malta, but harmful for the European Union. Russians settling in the Netherlands with a Maltese passport, for example, are difficult to find. The same goes for the bank accounts they open and the companies they start.
And the investigative agency AIVD itself said it is not in vain takes care to make. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union and the US government announced measures to curb the sale of so-called golden passports.
We also announce our commitment to take measures to curb the sale of citizenship – so-called golden passports – that allow wealthy Russians affiliated with the Russian government to become citizens of certain countries to gain access to our financial systems.
It is estimated that several thousand Russians have purchased a Maltese passport in recent years. The costs are about one million euros. Family members can also purchase a passport for a smaller amount.
In addition to being Maltese, they also become full-fledged citizens of the European Union. For example, the Russian elite can place assets in Europe and easily access European financial institutions.
Passport trade makes Malta billions. The largest group of buyers comes from Russia. The passport is also popular with Arabs and Chinese.
A few years ago, we dived into the mysterious world of passport trading. Then we come across abandoned basement houses, ultra-rich Russians and the Groningen passport professor:
The Maltese government maintains that no passports were sold to Russians on the EU sanctions list. According to Professor of Economic Law Hans Feder (University of Groningen), the purchase of Maltese citizenship is not an obstacle to imposing sanctions on Russians.
“The EU can freeze assets, including those with a Maltese passport,” Feder says. “EU countries can also restrict travel rights and prevent sanctioned Russians from entering the country. Malta itself cannot deny entry to Russians with a Maltese passport.”
European values are not for sale.
Last year, the European Commission began legal action to stop the sale of passports. “European values are not for sale,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. But Malta asserts that EU countries have the right to decide for themselves who resides and who does not.
Besides Malta, other countries in the European Union also sell passports, including Cyprus and Austria. This last country has such strict conditions that it is easy for Russians to knock on Malta’s door.
Some of the passport buyers who report to Malta already have multiple nationalities by purchasing passports. For example, they can report to Maltese counters who have a nationality other than their original Russian nationality. It is not clear how Malta will deal with this.
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