Updated at 5pm with Henley & Partners statement
Leaked e-mails sent in June 2011 show that SCL, the group behind data mining company Cambridge Analytica, offered to broker a meeting between then-Opposition leader Joseph Muscat and passports czar Christian Kalin.
The e-mails, seen by the Times of Malta, feature correspondence between SCL and Mr Kalin about a potential meeting with Dr Muscat.
“He is young, very determined and very savvy for international investment,” the SCL e-mail to Mr Kalin reads. Mr Kalin responded positively to the offer for a meeting, the e-mails indicate.
The correspondence sent by the election consultancy firm also questioned if some polling should be conducted.
Mr Kalin advised holding off on the polling “since its [sic] too far away from election time”.
Asked by SCL if he would be helping source any election funds, Mr Kalin replied that he was not in the business of campaign funding.
SCL also approached the Nationalist Party just ahead of the 2013 election, the party’s then-secretary general Paul Borg Olivier has said. “I am proud to have kicked out both Christian Kalin and SLC from sneaking further into the PNHQ,” he wrote on Facebook.
Denial and pushback
Despite these denials, a House of Commons report published on Monday said SCL held meetings in Malta, and that Mr Kalin, of Henley & Partners, was introduced by SCL to Dr Muscat in 2011.
The government pushed back when references to such a meeting first appeared in an interim report by the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee last year.
Despite diplomatic representations and the engagement of a PR firm, the House of Commons final report kept the references to the SCL meeting, citing “confidential information” as confirmation that the Labour Party had dealings with SCL.
The report said that SCL Elections and its associated companies, including Cambridge Analytica, worked on campaigns that were not financed in a transparent way, overstepping legal and ethical boundaries.
The London-based company Cambridge Analytica was last year accused of using the personal data of 50 million Facebook members to influence the US presidential election in 2016.
Its executives have also been filmed in an undercover sting operation suggesting they could use honey traps and potentially even bribery to discredit politicians and help influence voters in St Kitts and Nevis.
Personal data from more than 6,000 Maltese Facebook users was shared with Cambridge Analytica.
More Maltese citizens were targeted than Estonia, Latvia and Luxembourg, countries with higher population numbers.
The committee was told that behind much of SCL Elections’ campaigning work was the hidden hand of Christian Kalin, who arranged for investors to supply the funding to pay for campaigns, and then organised SCL to write their manifesto and oversee the whole campaign process.
In exchange, Henley & Partners would gain exclusive passport rights for that country, under a citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programme.
Such a scheme was controversially launched by the Labour government months after the 2013 election. No mention of passport sales was made in Labour’s pre-election manifesto.
‘Interaction with SCL, but no partnership’ – Henley
In a statement, Henley & Partners acknowledged that there had been “a certain amount of interaction” between it and SCL, though it flatly denied that it “worked in partnership with SCL or in any way sought to gain from the outcomes of any elections.”
It expressed concern that the House of Commons committee had relied on several anonymous sources “without any seeming interrogation of the motivation behind the disclosure”.
Less than 1 per cent of all applicants to its various citizenship-by-investment schemes had been “nefarious”, it said, and the committee report’s criticism of the sector was “without justification and “one-sided”, the company said.
“The important value created by investment migration for sovereign states and their people have been entirely ignored,” it said.
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