Malta is for Sale

When I lived in Malta, I was rather surprised by how much was on sale. When I wanted to purchase a bus ticket from the vending machine, it sometimes happened that a helpful bus driver came up to me and sold me a “spare” ticket for less than the official price. Some of my acquaintances were trading in everything from receipts (for VAT fraud) to residence permits. I heard that you could also buy building permits, hunting licences, mobile phone access for prison inmates, government jobs and an extra goal in a football match. I personally only got a police conduct certificate (2.50 EUR), which I could use for a gun license in Germany, and a Maltese ID card (free of charge), both of them completely legally of course.

maltese_passportBut now, the Republic of Malta will top this firesale: its parliament has passed a law allowing the sale of Maltese citizenship and passports for 650,000 EUR.

“But who wants to move to this tiny island in the Mediterranean?”, I hear you ask. Well, that’s the thing: you don’t need to move to Malta under the new citizenship-for-sale scheme. There is no requirement to live or to invest the amount in Malta. You only need to pay. (Preferably in cash, I assume.) As Malta is a member state of the European Union, you will get EU citizenship with it. Buy one, get one free. Anyone with the necessary money will then be able to reside in any of the 28 EU countries, travel freely between them and vote in municipal and European elections.

My first reaction was one of shock and horror, especially because I remember the “our country is too crowded already” arguments from my time in Malta. They were raised each time a boat with refugees was on its way from Africa. Poor people fleeing famine are apparently less welcome than shady businesspeople. In extreme cases, the warlords or arms dealers fuelling civil wars in Africa will buy Maltese citizenship, while their victims will be turned back by the Maltese Navy – or will die on the sea.

One the other hand, I have to admit that in this respect, Malta is at least honest. Most countries view citizenship and residency applications of individuals with lots of money more favourably than those of poor chaps. Although no country in the EU is as brazen as Malta, giving away citizenship without any residency or investment requirement, if you have 650,000 EUR that you don’t need, you can effectively get the citizenship of a large number of countries. In the EU, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and Ireland are other examples. I work as an immigration advisor for people interested in obtaining German citizenship, and although Germany has no similar scheme, it still makes it much easier if you are wealthy, whether you use your funds for an investment in Germany or to buy real estate or to attend university for a few years, after which you can apply for German citizenship, or to “convince” someone to get married to you. People without money don’t have these options, or at least not as easily.

I have two naive hopes:

- I would hope that this reciprocal generosity between Malta and rich applicants will make it harder for Malta to argue that the island is overcrowded when the next boat with half-starving, half-dead refugees will arrive. Also, only 650,000 EUR from one new citizen will go a long way in providing help for refugees in need.

- As the other EU countries are understandably pissed about Malta selling out, maybe this will push the issue of a true European citizenship and European immigration policy onto the agenda.

But I also have two fears, which are probably more realistic:

- The Maltese government has teamed up with some shady consultancy, which will implement the passport-for-cash programme. Either the Maltese government thought its own civil servants are too corrupt (because evaluating the simple question whether somebody has paid 650,000 EUR can hardly be a question of competence) or – and this is my guess – they want to put a third party between them and the applicants, so that they can later deny all responsibility. I can already smell the corruption now.

- EU citizenship not only comes with the right to take part in elections, but also to stand for election. I wouldn’t be surprised if more millionaires and billionaires will move to Europe and try to influence politics. For a Russian oligarch or a Saudi prince, European politics might be an entertaining and profitable hobby. And who knows, even Mr Berlusconi might make the move to Malta.

Imagine how many Maltesers you could buy for 650,000 EUR!

Imagine how many Maltesers you could buy for 650,000 EUR.

(Zur deutschen Version dieses Artikels.)

About Andreas Moser

You will most likely find me in the forest, next to the lake, reading a book. Just follow the cigar smoke!
This entry was posted in Europe, Immigration Law, Law, Malta, Politics, Scams and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Malta is for Sale

  1. List of X says:

    Even the US will give a greencard to someone who has a million $ to invest. In 5 years, if you stay out of trouble, you’ll be a US citizen.

  2. Zakennayo says:

    I want Malta, the bunch of Arabs that they are, out of the EU, now. We won’t miss them! They can join Maghreb or African Union instead.

    • Katuma says:

      And what nationality are you please? Just a quick question!!

    • sarahbailey says:

      Do your research before posting such ignorant comments…I want to tell you so much more for being such a rude, racist and utterly stupid prick but I promised myself I’ll be diplomatic.

    • Dorian Mcallen says:

      You just went “all-out retarded”… You should never go “all-out retarded”…

      You have no idea where Malta is or what Malta is right? You have no idea what you’re talking about.

    • Joanna Kpelafia says:

      Arabs?! where are you from even?? maybe you re from one of the countries Malta helped bail out of sh&t otherwise you would die of hunger? p.s. majority of the maltese do not agree with selling the citizenship and secondly we surely arent arabs… so get your facts straight before u open that sh^t hole you call your mouth!!! pardon the language for the rest commentators but he deserves more

      • Joanna Kpelafia's alter ego ! says:

        Anything coming from your foul mouth Joanna is demented… You fat, ugly cow !

      • Joanna Kpelafia's alter ego ! says:

        Joanna…. You are an embarrassment to humanity and certainly to Maltese people… You sold out to the first bidder which took pity on you… And you now get done by some African asylum seeker in Malta, who is using your morbidly obese body, to get himself a Maltese EU passport !

  3. Brenden says:

    What do the other countries think about these schemes? Do you think there will be some sort of clamp-down on them in the future?

    • I reckon the other EU countries are not at all happy, but citizenship law is clearly in the national domain and the EU has no authority over it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to exert some other kind of pressure over Malta, which is after all the smallest member state.

      • D says:

        Since when did the size of a member started making a difference?

      • I should say the combination of size and economic power. If there are meetings of the European ministers or heads of government, I doubt the representatives of Malta or Slovenia have the same clout as those from Germany and France.

      • stefan engel says:

        You underestimate the importance of Malta because of their large ship register, strategic location, etc.

      • Strategic location I think hasn’t been important since World War 2.

      • stefan engel says:

        Ah really? You think so? You remember the Libya Crisis? What about the potential Oil Fields? Access to the Search and Rescue zone (Italy would like to get it), fisheries, etc

        I have see minutes of pre-accession Meetings of Malta EU and it was clear that the importance is still there.

  4. Matteo says:

    Other countries in the Caribbean sell for a lot less (invest in a condo and become a citizen).
    I find this interesting that they simply want cash instead of an actual investment in a condo/villa etc.
    If you are a dual German/American, what benefit is there of having another EU passport? Would you consider it? The more the sexier life become? I think obtaining citizenship through descent or through “purchase” is wonderful! I agree with your comment regarding having more money increases your chances. This part is true worldwide. Sometimes translations, apostile, other document related costs (obtaining long form of everything etc) can add up. Love multiple citizenship as long as there is not that mandatory filing of taxes yearly (USA and Libya only?)
    Great topic!

    • If you already have one EU citizenship, there are not many advantages of a second EU citizenship. Many of them are merely theoretical in most cases: (1) You can run for national public office and vote in national elections in that country (versus only municipal and European elections). (2) Some passports are better for travelling. The USA for example still demand visas from some EU citizens, but not from others. A German passport will be more useful than a Romanian one in that respect. (3) You will have an insurance if your country were to leave the EU. That’s especially relevant for the British, I assume.

      • stefan engel says:

        “You can run for national public office and vote in national elections in that country (versus only municipal and European elections).”

        => Wrong. A passport is not enough. You need to proof residence. And yes if you are resident what the hell is wrong with running for an office?

      • I thought Maltese who live abroad can also vote? During the election in 2013, I saw many Maltese returning to Malta just to cast their vote (and eat a good ftira and drink a Kinnie while they are here).

      • stefan engel says:

        No, you need to have your residence in Malta to be able to vote. Every year people are removed from the electoral register because they did not stay long enough/year in Malta.

        Every party checks those lists before every election and tries to remove as many as possible people from the “other side”.

        It is one thing to “think”. But it is another thing to write those “thoughts” as facts!

    • stefan engel says:

      “I find this interesting that they simply want cash instead of an actual investment in a condo/villa etc.”

      =? You need to purchase a property of at least 350 000, you need also to invest at least 150 000 in bonds, etc. So it is not just cash.

  5. Well, if Malta, being a fairly economically solid country for Southern Europe, is selling for 650,000 Euros, I wonder if desperate Greece or Spain might come up with a better price. I’d love it if it were Spain – I sort of speak the language (Mexican Spanish, close enough for jazz), and already know the lineup of cars available through the SEAT dealership chain, so I’d have a job. Assuming anybody’s left in Spain with enough money to BUY a car …. or a bicycle …. or a skateboard! ;) (I kid, I know Spain’s getting better – slowly. I think they’re up to the buying power of a Vespa, no?)

    • I also think that if the Maltese scheme will work, it will cause other countries to copy it at somewhat lower prices.
      But you could move to and work in Spain with any of the EU citizenships, so you don’t even need to wait for Spain to offer something similar. That’s exactly why other EU countries are so angry at Malta, because they believe that most of these new Maltese won’t live in Malta, but will use their purchased passports to live in Germany, France, the UK or in your case Spain.

      • I also think that this is the real problem for the other EU citizens. It’s all about money again, isn’t it? Best regards

      • stefan engel says:

        Well, you can stay ONLY in another EU country for more than 3 month if you can proof you have enough cash or if you have work.

        And if you invested more than a million I am sure you will not go and work as a waiter!

      • This 3-month rule is hardly ever applied, also because it’s not practical, at least within Schengen, where countries have no way of knowing how long somebody has been in the country.

        I myself have lived in 4 different EU countries (among them Malta) for more than 3 months each and never had to prove any availability of assets or a job (neither of which I could have proved, because I didn’t have it). It was never any problem, whether I stayed for half a year or a year.

  6. Matteo says:

    From a report (CNBC), here are other options:
    1. Still, within continental Europe, Bulgaria is on the list with full citizenship for $500,000
    2. One of the easiest in both process and universal practicality is the tiny, tropical Eastern Caribbean spot of St. Kitts and Nevis. All that’s needed is a real estate investment of $400,000 (only villas and condominiums qualify) and a registration fee of $50,000. And you get to travel to 131 countries visa-free, according to the Henley & Partners Visa Restriction Index 2013.
    3. There are other options. Last month, the Caribbean island of Antigua and Barbuda launched a “Citizenship by Investment Programme.” A $400,000 real estate investment helps you pass through the borders of 130 counties without a visa.
    4. There is also the Commonwealth of Dominica. Here you will need a non-refundable investment of $100,000, in addition to $1,800 in fees. It takes eight weeks for the “economic citizenship” to be granted. Expect to travel to 87 countries visa-free.
    5. … If you are completely cash-strapped, there is always Paraguay, which offers citizenship for a nominal fee to those who have resided in the country for at least three years. Or Spain, where marriage to a Spaniard is needed for just one year.

  7. Ilona says:

    People do everything for money and money buys living, but we forget that best things in life are free! You can’t buy love, parents, true friendship, happiness and your motherland. You buy citizenship, but always want to go back to where you belonged.

  8. dino bragoli says:

    Very illuminating! I love the reference to BOGOF, Buy One Get One Free. lol.

  9. stanito says:

    Haha, I loved Malta and didn’t know about this :) they have a peculiar language, awesome landscapes and mixed culture. Love it.
    I think Malta is too small for Berlusconi.

  10. Pingback: Zu verkaufen: Maltesische Staatsbürgerschaft | Mosereien

  11. sarahbailey says:

    As a fellow blogger, I do think that this sensitive issue should’ve been handled a bit more tactfully….it’s a good article and you approached it from different viewpoints, however, your naive hope regarding the immigrants is irrelevant here since there are so many other concerning issues for Malta regarding the relentless influx of immigrants. An integration policy is currently in progress and for such a small country with such limited space and financial resources, it’s almost more than we can provide. Preventing loss of life has always been on the top of the agenda and it’s tough to take in immigrants when detention centres are holding eight times the amount of people they should hold.
    regarding your other naive hope, yes I completely agree with you. As I previously mentioned, not all Maltese are willing to have their citizenship so freely bought.

    • Emma says:

      Thanks for your comment Sarah! I completely agree with you and I’m sure your views are shared by many other Maltese. The immigration issue and the buying of citizenship are two very different issues for a variety of reasons.

  12. Matteo says:

    Canada, USA etc are really no different. It seems many countries “sell” citizenship but it may be done in ways that we were not aware of. This is one way of getting needed cash into the country. Looking at this situation and many others, it seems “citizenship for sale” will increase. Just called something else like “simplified naturalization” or “citizenship for special case people”. Malta shouldn’t be blamed. I have heard cases in many countries that don’t add up but it is a fact of our modern day. More citizenships the better. Who knows what countries will split in the coming years or how things will change again. At least it gives folk a chance.

    • Shannon says:

      you only get two years green card when investing US. Once you have that, US government will verify if you really create 10 local jobs and other conditions before issuing a real green card. From there, you have to wait five more years, pass exam etc to get US citizenship. It is a rather long processing. So rich people usually go Canada and the money to invest is guaranteed to bring back by Canadian government but not USA.

  13. Joseph Cini says:

    For a lawyer you seem to have a distinct lack of oblique thinking. Hint: in politics nothing is what it seems. So the government says this is a money-making exercise and you believe them? Hint: Some things cannot be solved with money……….for a brief moment stop thinking like a citizen from one of the most powerful nations in the world………

    • I also think it’s quite an obvious way to reward non-EU “friends” who wish to settle in the EU.

      • Joseph Cini says:

        Obvious. Of course, that’s what they want you to think.That’s just a by-product of little or no significance to the people in charge.
        They’re manouvering, positioning themselves to achieve something by stealth as they have done in the past. This is the way small entities must operate, because no one cares about them.

      • So why don’t you tell us what it is about?

      • stefan engel says:

        Do not forget that everyone has to pass a proper due diligence test and names will be published.

      • Then why outsource it to some shady company? It will be very hard for the public, the media and indeed even Maltese MPs to find out if somebody got a passport who shouldn’t have.

      • stefan engel says:

        Every new passport will be published in the government gazette. So there is nothing hard to find out.

        Obviously the first filter is outsourced to an independent company. The next filter is the government itself. Would NOT make sense at all if both filters would be the same government.

  14. Joseph Cini says:

    The answer is right there, within your paragraph titled: “I have two naive hopes”
    Remember, “The sword cuts both ways”

  15. Joseph Cini says:

    Some Europeans are pissed off allright! This lot certainly is:

    (It seems these are the sentiments of most of the people of Malta too)

  16. stefan engel says:

    I expected a better researched article. It is not only 650k but also an investment in property and bonds required. I guess you not even read the law you are writing about!

    The reason that it seems that “Poor people fleeing famine are apparently less welcome” are not the “poor people” but the lack of burden sharing of the other EU Member states.

    The big EU Member states have no problem dumping their access of agricultural goods at subsidized prices in Africa and thus destroying their economy. But when they are asked for just a bit of burden sharing they turn ignorant.

    Austria is giving out passports for a very handsome sum to pretty shady people. For example Yeltsin’s daughter. Cyprus does the same.

    Additional they give a free passport to every person who lost more than 3 mio in the recent banking crash (black money). That with the approval of the Troika.

    If small Malta wants to attract high worth individuals (after passing a very hard due diligence test) they are called “shady business people”, “War Lords”, etc. Typical for a latent racist German. Two weights to measures!

    “Although no country in the EU is as brazen as Malta, giving away citizenship without any residency or investment requirement”

    1. See above what other countries do
    2. Give me a favour and read the Maltese law before you post such rubbish.

    I have two naive hopes:

    – that the other EU countries wake up and see that a burden sharing for the boat people is required. Who causes the problems of the boat people?

    What are the former colonial powers are doing to help their ex – colonies?
    Why are they fighting with German weapons?
    Why did Germany supply Syria with the chemical to produce WMDs?
    Who pushes their agricultural overproduction at subsidized prices to Africa and thus destroying their agriculture?

    For sure NOT Malta. But it is expected that Malta helps the people!

    Malta is understandably pissed about the countries causing so much harm in the world!

    But I also have a fear, which is probably more realistic:

    -The EU and especially Germany will give a shit on the problems they are causing in Africa and the Far East. They will continue to give a shit on how many 10 thousand of people are drowning in the med.

    • On these points, Europe’s contribution to crises and wars and to the necessity to share the responsibility of accepting refugees to Europe, I fully agree.

    • stefan engel says:

      Yes, and whoever brings the argument of refugees and small country together with the new investment scheme is very cynical and obscene.

      Malta does not get the help it deserves and requires. Now it is helping itself and it is good like that!

  17. Joseph Cini says:

    Now we’re getting close……

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