I worked on the investigation with Russian colleagues Lily Dobrovolskaya, Yulya Pavlovskaya, Ilya Shumanov.
The investigation finds that:
- The listed cases of abuse in the purchase of Maltese passports clearly demonstrate the vulnerability of the Maltese “economic citizenship” program. By its nature, the program is a high-risk tool: The lack of transparency and the flaw of proper verification by the EU create additional opportunities for corrupt officials who want to avoid justice.
- Such a scheme is also attractive in that it allows laundering large sums of money while simultaneously gaining free access to the countries of the European Union. In addition, the EU citizen passport greatly facilitates the movement of money, as European banks consider holders of “gold passports” as local residents, and not as suspicious foreigners. In fact, it is a question of reputation laundering. It is no coincidence that the “golden visas” are the most popular among investors from countries with high levels of corruption, a strong shadow economy and an unstable political system. According to Malta Today, of the 646 people who received Maltese citizenship, more than 40% were Russian citizens. Only 19% are citizens of other EU member states.
- Corruption risks are also embedded in large cash transactions between the state and the applicants, which are often not transparent in their structure. As a result, people who were supposed to invest in the economy and property of the state, turned into “ghosts” with mailboxes in cheap apartments.