Special | Zo komen schimmige miljonairs Europa binnen

Malta, a small island state in the deep south of the European Union It was known as a beautiful holiday spot But in recent years it has turned into the EU’s problem child All because of a new trade the Maltese government started that has yielded hundreds of millions of euros but has many implications Not just for Malta, but possibly for the entire EU The trade in Maltese passports This Maltese neighbourhood is, curiously, the domicile of a Russian ski jumper At least, according to the register And according to that register a Russian woman supposedly lives in this town But the neighbours have never seen her Two billionaires supposedly live in this basement flat One from Russia and one from the United Arab Emirates The door has two numbers But there is no trace of either men The sole window is boarded up What is happening in Malta? In 2014 its government created a goldmine earning Malta hundreds of millions of euros every year: The sale of Maltese passports The sale is legal. The Maltese government issues the passports For around 900,000 euros a buyer can become a naturalised Maltese The global business elite is very interested Malta has sold over 2,000 passports After buying in in Malta you are automatically an EU citizen You can travel freely within the EU start a company, or open a bank account But those rich passport buyers do need one thing: a Maltese home That is why hundreds of Maltese homes are unoccupied The Maltese read about the dark side of this trade on the blog of a local journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has scoop after scoop about abuse of this trade Until she herself becomes world news on 16 October 2017 because of what happened here that day Daphne Caruana Galizia exposes some- thing that is an open secret in Malta Hundreds of rich foreigners from outside the EU buy Maltese citizenship Caruana Galizia gets a list of the supposed domiciles of the new citizens Two years ago Daphne and her son were working on a new story when she has to go out to run an errand She takes her car and drives off Matthew, still at home, hears the explosion Caruana Galizia’s son is convinced

that high level government officials are involved in the murder of his mother The criminal case is still open but fact is that the passport trade deeply divides Malta The proceeds are very welcome for the government And many Maltese rent out flats to multimillionaires from far away Opponents warn of the implications of this new form of immigration Delia knows those millionaires have one motive: Entry to the EU and all the associated advantages There are strong indications that corrupt Maltese civil servants are making fortunes from the passport trade Some are in the upper echelons of government or even work in the office of prime minister Muscat According to Azzopardi the influx of euros is the source of a host of evils The Maltese government could not find anyone to talk to us about this One thing is clear: Muscat and his government do not plan to end their lucrative trade in Maltese passports Keith Schembri is the highest Maltese civil servant, and Muscat’s Chief of Staff When his name is found in the Panama Papers Matthew Caruana Galizia writes about his involvement in bribery Maltese fraud detectives conclude Schembri receives large sums of money from Russian passport buyers The fraud case is a problem for the government If his right-hand man is corrupt, then what about the prime minister himself? Muscat is accused of close ties with the sector that makes money off the trade Muscat is responsible for a deal between his government and Henley & Partners and its Swiss chairman Christian Kalin H&P play a double game They earn millions advising the Maltese government about the sale of passport And they earn money by advising people who want to buy a Maltese passport For those buyers H&P organise roadshows all over the world

where Muscat extols the virtues of his passports Muscat denies all accusations of a conflict of interest. And there is no proof But according to critics he is actively protecting himself This statement sounds plausible Detectives investigating Steve Schembri were dismissed His police file is gathering dust Schembri is still Muscat’s Chief of Staff When non-Europeans buy a Maltese passport many doors open for them But that may harm national security Malta has opened the EU’s rear door and in Finland they feel the draft A Russian is buying many Finnish islands strategically located just off the coast Saturday morning I was out and about in the car In the distance I saw headlights I went over to have a look Thomas hardly ever sees strange cars her, let alone on a Saturday at dawn I saw two police cars with two police officers in each So, I stopped then and there The quiet area around Willberg’s farm is used for the biggest Finnish military operation since WW II During a police operation two people were arrested in the Turku archipelago The authorities close part of the airspace, while 400 soldiers and police officers raid several locations simultaneously The operation concerns this man who has a Maltese passport He’s rich, and over the years he buys a lot of land in the Finnish Turku archipelago All in all, he buys 15 islands as well as two former Finnish navy vessels The man has bought his Maltese passport but hails from Finland’s neighbour Russian Pavel Melnikov supposedly earned his fortune in plumbing The islands he buys are along shipping lanes and near Finland’s biggest naval base A Russian who buys so much land in this area is very suspicious, says Salonius Melnikov’s Finnish agent is a lawyer: Kari Uoti He denies any irregularities

We sail to Serkilot, one of Melnikov’s islands The Turku archipelago is a vast area of islands off the Finnish southwest coast This area contains shipping lanes to Finnish harbours. And Russia is nearby Melnikov built enough accommodations for hundreds of people Everywhere you look, you see cameras, heat sensors and communications equipment All of it on Finland’s doorstep and owned by a Russian with a Maltese passport Back to Melnikov’s Maltese passport The Finnish lead investigator has told Nieuwsuur Melnikov indeed used it ‘Melnikov used his Maltese passport to travel We are investigating other usage.’ Whatever Melnikov’s intentions his Maltese passport opens many new doors for him in Finland Maltese passport trade or the purchase of Finnish islands hardly seem to be our business But an important man in this trade lives in the Netherlands He is a professor a Groningen University, but he has more positions Professor Dimitry Kochenov has meetings in Rotterdam, Brussels and Minsk but the Russian-born scholar happily makes time to speak with us How long have you lived here? – Almost 20 years 17 years. I’ve been here since 2002 And you are Dutch – Yes, of course His nickname is The Passport Professor His impressive CV shows universities from Mexico, the U.S., Japan, Italy and Groningen Around the world he visits conventions addressing government leaders and talking with lawyers and advisors who assist wealthy passport buyers We interview him in English. He tells us how he views the Maltese passport trade Kochenov’s description plays an important role in the Maltese passport trade When de European Commission asks Malta for clarification the Maltese government calls on Kochenov to offer legal assistance In his advice Kochenov also gives this specific explanation:

Potential residents of Malta are not required to reside on the island The government adopts Kochenov’s advice that is now a factor in the passport trade’s success Russians, Chinese and Arabs can become Maltese and EU citizens without moving to Malta But many Maltese dislike this advice Is Kochenov right? Is he an academic who just explains the law? Back to his CV Until recently Kochenov was president of the Investment Migration Council This international group promotes the trade in passports and residence permits Kochenov is the only academic on the board of the council The other members are all from the industry International lawyers and consultants who advise the super-rich who buy passports What does the council do? We check the register of the Swiss Chamber of Commerce It is an association that is indeed led by Dimity Kochenov Its main aim: Promoting the sale of passports and residence permits In the EU registers it is called an industry lobby group And on its website the council writes: ‘…giving the industry a voice’ During Kochenov’s presidency the IMC enters into agreements with governments Like recently with Antigua and Barbuda We ask Kochenov about this On his website Kochenov writes he is on the advisory board of Henley & Partners H&P helped the Maltese government set up its passport trade and still are the exclusive advisors of the government when it sells passports After our interview Kochenov edited his website

And then there are Kochenov’s world- wide appearances, talks and advices From a variety of positions In Davos he spoke on behalf of his lobby group during a meeting organised by Henley & Partners This is a session about residence permits in Moscow, organised by Malta Kochenov speaks as a consultant, but the programme calls him a professor and shows the University of Groningen logo After our interview we find more information Kochenov was paid for his work for Malta He confirms he received around 36,000 euros We see higher fees in documents from the Maltese parliament but these are unknown to Kochenov, he says But there is more In Maltese registers we find a limited company in Malta that is located at the offices of a law firm that is active in the passport trade Kochenov is one of two board members of this company. Its main activity: ‘To promote awareness about the trade in passports.’ Although Kochenov is legally responsible for the company he refers us to his co-board member when it concerns routine matters Kochenov is a fulltime professor in Groningen and studies the controversial trade in passports He presides the lobby group of companies that profit off the passport trade He is director of its Maltese subsidiary, also active in passport trade On paper he worked for a firm that advises about passport trading And he was a paid advisor when Malta introduced their passport trade Kochenov’s moonlighting is criticised by Maltese politicians Now you have seen the entire story, one thing is clear: You like research journalism. When you subscribe to our YouTube channel you will get many more stories like this