The European Law Students’ Association (ELSA) Malta is an international, independent, non-political and non-profit-making organisation run by and for students.
The organisation has several concerns regarding the recently-introduced Individual Investor Programme and the subsequent changes to the Maltese Citizenship Act, namely:
1) The lack of consultation and public debate prior to the introduction of this scheme:
One must say that the launch of the IIP took the general public by complete surprise. The lack of proper consultation with all the stakeholders involved, as well as the general public itself, is regretted, all the more so given that the scheme touches upon a highly sensitive national issue – Maltese citizenship.
We believe that the haste by which the Government has decided to introduce this scheme has deprived stakeholders, practitioners and professionals alike to examine the IIP thoroughly. The lack of a proper study of this scheme has led to further anxiety among the general public and incorrect information being spread through the media.
2) The scheme in principle
ELSA Malta opposes the sale of Maltese citizenship for a cash consideration. The scheme has been termed as an Individual Investor Programme, and yet one finds no reference to any obligation of the potential beneficiary to invest in the country. A one-time cash payment of €650,000 is not a long-term investment.
Furthermore, the IIP does not oblige the potential beneficiary to reside in Malta for a minimum number of years before obtaining Maltese citizenship. This, together with the lack of required investment in the country, effectively means that any potential buyer of a Maltese passport need not have any link to the country whatsoever.
3. Impact on Malta’s reputation
It is very unfortunate to witness the multitude of negative reports about this scheme throughout the international media. This may have very serious consequences on Malta’s economy, particularly the financial services sector, in the long-run. More specifically, we are concerned that it may pose a risk to law students’ future employment in this area.
ELSA Malta believes that the lack of information surrounding this scheme has led the international media to assimilate Malta’s Individual Investor Programme with similar cash-for citizenship schemes mainly found in several Caribbean countries, most commonly known for their “tax-haven” jurisdictions.
ELSA Malta believes that the Government should do anything in its power to change this perception, be it through more clarity and factual information being provided, or better still, by amending the IIP in order for it to include more stringent requirements for any beneficiary to acquire Maltese citizenship. The Government’s decision to remove the ‘secrecy clause’ in the IIP, meaning that the names of those who acquire Maltese citizenship shall now be published in the Government Gazette, is a step in the right direction.
ELSA Malta welcomes the Government’s decision to hold further talks with the Opposition with the intention of trying to reach a consensus. However, we believe that the scheme should be
suspended until an agreement has been reached.
While ELSA Malta believes that a constructive debate could lead to a scheme which grants citizenship to individuals who invest in our economy and therefore contribute to Malta’s overall
development, we cannot but express concern at the Individual Investor Programme as it is now.