Reporting from the Passport Papers collaboration

27 April 2021

After four months of investigating, eight collaborative media partners have come together to present the Passport Papers, an investigation into the sale of Maltese passports.

Their work has been instrumental in revealing what is really happening behind the scenes when wealthy investors attempt to purchase their way into European citizenship. From details on a Saudi Prince who met with the Prime Minister in order to have his identity concealed when applying for a passport, to a phantom building that was rented to potential applicants despite being unfinished, the collaboration has ensured that the public truly knows what is going on behind one of Europe’s most ‘exclusive’ residency schemes.

Read all the Passport Papers stories from: The Guardian, Dossier Center, Lovin Malta, Malta Today, The Malta Independent, Times of Malta and The Shift.

Dossier Center

The Maltese roots of Russia's richest deputies: How parliamentarians and their loved ones are trying to relocate to Malta

In an investigation by the Dossier Center, on behalf of the Passport Papers, new evidence has come to light of how Russian parliamentarians are attempting to purchase Maltese passports in order to access European citizenship. Their investigation reveals that over the last few years, almost a thousand Russian nationals have tried to use Malta’s cash-for-passport scheme as a way to obtain a second or third passport.

Malta Today and the Malta Independent

Saudi royal met with Joseph Muscat to discuss name removal from Government Gazette

A Saudi royal who bought Maltese citizenship successfully saw his name removed from the Government Gazette, despite a government obligation to publish names of all naturalised citizens. Reported by MaltaToday's Nicole Meilak and the Malta Independent's Albert Galea.

How phantom building Vista Point was rented to IIP applicants

Vista Point, an apartment complex situated in Marsalforn and managed by Trident Property Management, was a frequent location for applicants to rent during their 12-month required residency prior to submitting their citizenship application. In an investigation by MaltaToday and Malta Independent, details have emerged that many applicants were renting apartments while the building was still under construction.

‘I don’t care, choose the least expensive’: Malta’s IIP citizens’ dream homes

Small apartments, costing whatever was required in order to fulfill the residency residency requirements, that would most likely remain empty during the 12-month lease was a frequent occurrence for applicants renting apartments in Malta. In a joint story by MaltaToday and Malta Independent, details are revealed of the properties rented by IIP applicants and the effects the programme may have had on the rental market.

From Pilatus Bank to BT International: The agents and introducers of the IIP

From Pilatus Bank to Nexia BT venture BT International, Henley & Partners sought to set up introduction agreements across Malta in the hopes of raking in as many clients as possible, documents and correspondence seen by the Malta Independent on Sunday and MaltaToday on behalf of the Passport Papers can reveal.

Junior minister was Henley’s OPM contact to avoid client ‘grief’

Despite denying any involvement in the scheme, new details revealed in the Passport Papers show that Alex Muscat, now Parliamentary Secretary for citizenship, was named by Henley & Partners as their “contact person” inside the Office of the Prime Minister. Leaked documents reveal that Muscat was named in emails, as well as coordinated private transport for applicants visiting Malta.

Pastizzi from Serkin, Red Bull from Havana: the 'genuine links' of the IIP

IIP applicants bought their way through low-value options to prove genuineness, using parking tickets and receipts from bars and cafés.

The Shift

Passport Papers: Henley and Partners’ leaked documents show most applicants are from countries where dual citizenship is not permitted

The team at The Shift explore the legality of dual citizenship for many of the applicants applying for Maltese passports. Russia, China and Saudi Arabia - all countries where many of the applicants applying for dual citizenship are from - bar nationals from acquiring a second passport, unless special permission is granted first.

‘Never lived in apartment’ rented out to passport buyer sheds light on rental sham

In a report by The Shift, Gabriel Schembri exposes further flaws in the residency requirements set for applicants when applying for a Maltese passport. Schembri’s report highlights details from a Facebook post, advertising a 2-bedroom property from a ‘passport client’ who rents the property, but has never actually lived in it. The article elaborates on reports published by other members of the consortium detailing the fact that potential applicants are exploiting the residency loophole and not residing in Malta for the 12-month period prior to their citizenship application.

Passport Papers: oligarchs, royalty and fugitives

Who are the individuals applying for a Maltese passport? The Shift's report reveals details of the oligarchs, members of royal families and fugitives who attempted to purchase a passport through Henley & Partners.

Passport Papers: A fugitive’s quest for a European passport

Despite adamant denials from Henley & Partners that international fugitive Jho Low was ever a client of theirs, new evidence obtained through the Passport Papers investigation has revealed that this is untrue. In a report for The Shift, Alice Elizabeth Taylor reveals the new evidence proving that, with the help of Henley & Partners, Low was able to purchase a property in Cyprus.

PN agrees with passport scheme, subject to an ‘open and transparent’ process

In response to the Passport Papers investigation, which revealed shortcomings in Malta’s cash-for-passport scheme, both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader have defended the scheme, but argued for improvements. In responding to questions from The Shift, Opposition Leader Bernard Grech claimed that despite the recent revelations the scheme should be “retained.”

Times of Malta

Exposed: The great residency sham to obtain a Maltese passport

In a report for the Times of Malta, Jacob Borg and Matthew Xuereb reveal that the genuine links requirement to obtain a Maltese passport is no more than ‘ticking boxes’ with applicants making charitable donations, subscribing to a newspaper or joining a local club. The report also includes a scoring chart, awarding applicants points for each ‘genuine link’ they make in Malta.

Passport Papers: Saudi prince secured secret passport after Muscat meeting

Jacob Borg reveals details of Saudi Arabia's Prince Bander, who obtained a Maltese passport in 2017. The report reveals that during the application process to obtain a Maltese passport, the Prince met with former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and was able to have his name removed from the Government Gazette.

The phantom homes and shared addresses rented by passport buyers

In an detailed exposé of the residency requirements for applicants when applying for a Maltese passport, Matthew Xuereb reveals examples of what happens when those requirements aren’t followed. Applicants turning up to an unfinished property, a one bedroom flat for 12 individuals, and an applicant who disputed paying the management fee claiming that they would never visit the property, and much more from the Times of Malta.

Article: What are the Passport Papers?

What are the Passport Papers and who was involved in this joint-investigation into the sale of Maltese passports? Jacob Borg has the backstory.

Malta not trusted to properly administer passport sales - PN

Following an investigation into Malta’s cash-for-passport scheme, Malta’s opposition party, the Nationalist Party, responds to the story that has shocked the country. In an exclusive with the Times of Malta, the party stated: “Our reputation has been dirtied, and we are no longer considered a serious country that can properly administer such scheme.”

Article: Passport Papers: European values not for sale, Commission reiterates

In a response to the Passport Papers, the European Commission reiterated its stance that “EU values are not for sale.” In 2020, the European Commission launched infringement proceedings against Malta and Cyprus for their ‘golden passport’ schemes - a spokesperson for the Commission said that these proceedings were still ongoing.

Passport Papers: Henley 'prepared' for scheme months before public call

Leaked documents from the Passport Papers have shown that despite no mention of intention to launch the cash-for-passport scheme in the ruling party's electoral manifesto, Henley & Partners were preparing to launch their business in Malta prior to the official announcement. The Times of Malta’s Jacob Borg revealed details of the elaborate plan that was kept from the public until now.

Passport Papers: ‘To the clients, we say do the bare minimum’

In an undercover video shot by The Guardian, Henley & Partners’ Dominic Volek explained how the one-year residency requirement does not mean passport applicants must live in Malta for the entire year. Details also seen by the Times of Malta for the Passport Papers investigation, has shown a clear disregard for applicants applying for a Maltese passport to legitimately obtain a genuine link to the country.

Passport Papers: a timeline of Malta's golden passport scheme

In an interactive timeline for the Times of Malta, Jacob Borg walks through the history of Malta’s cash-for-passport scheme: from Joseph Muscat’s initial plans to keep the scheme hidden, to the international headlines that dominated the coverage of the scheme.

The undesirables who tried and failed to buy a Maltese passport

An alleged money-launderer, an international fugitive, and an alleged fraudster all tried to become Maltese citizens, documents show. The Times of Malta takes a closer look at three individuals who attempted to purchase a Maltese passport through Henley & Partners.

Michelle Muscat’s charity got passports donations push

A charity chaired by then prime minister Joseph Muscat’s wife, Michelle Muscat, received an endorsement from Henley & Partners as the go-to place for passport buyers’ donations. A report by the Times of Malta’s Jacob Borg reveals that donations to the charity were presented as evidence of 'genuine links' to Malta, as part of the application process.

Robert Abela defends passport scheme despite abuses being found

Following an international investigation into Malta’s cash-for-passport scheme which revealed applicants were exploiting loopholes in the residency requirements while applying for Maltese citizenship, the Prime Minister of Malta Robert Abela has defended the scheme. The Prime minister confirmed that both the regulations and the diligence process have since been strengthened, and claimed that the programme had “done a lot of good.”

The many passports (and alias) of the mystery orchestra composer

Alexey Shor — billed as the national orchestra academy’s composer-in-residence — operates under a pseudonym, has “dubious” musical credentials and has bought multiple passports, including a Maltese one.

The Guardian

Revealed: residency loophole in Malta’s cash-for-passports scheme

In an investigation for the Guardian, leaked documents collected through the Passport Papers reveal loopholes in the residency requirement, showing that properties rented by applicants were left empty for most of the year. The report reveals that applicants were able to create a “pretence” that they were residing in a country for a full year, despite the fact that many individuals will have only visited Malta for approximately 16 days.

How ‘golden passports’ firm lays on VIP service to colourful list of clients

Who are the wealthy individuals attempting to purchase a Maltese passport? In a report for the Guardian, David Pegg and Luke Harding reveal some of the wealthy individuals attempting to purchase their way into European citizenship.

Malta still selling golden passports to rich stay-away ‘residents’

In an undercover video for the Guardian, two senior Henley executives including Dominic Volek, the group head of private clients and a member of the firm’s executive committee, reveal the truth behind what is required when applying for a Maltese passport. The executives reveal that only the “bare minimum” of links to Malta is needed in order to obtain a passport in this never before seen footage, exclusive to the Passport Papers.

Lovin Malta

Firm Behind Maltese Citizenship Scheme Had Written Agreements With Cambridge Analytica’s Owner And CEO

Documents seen exclusively by collaborators of the Passport Papers investigation reveal a signed agreement between Henley & Partners and the now-defunct data firm Cambridge Analytica, Tim Diacono reports for Lovin Malta. Despite previous denials of any relationship, an investigation into the relationship found three signed agreements.