Alex Muscat, now Parliamentary Secretary for citizenship, was named by Henley & Partners as their “contact person” at the Office of the Prime Minister.
He was asked to discuss what resources were necessary to ensure a “positive experience” for a client. This after the government offered to help the firm “minimize grief to clients.” This grief included being chased by journalists.
Muscat, however, insists he had “no role” in the passports for cash scheme – the IIP.
Emails seen by this newsroom, which formed part of a cache of internal H&P documents obtained by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, and forms part of the Passport Papers investigation, shows how Muscat was asked to make the necessary arrangements for a client flying to Malta on a private jet.
Henley & Partners was keen to avoid any “grief” for their client by having the media film his arrival, as had happened with other passport applicants.
In one email, an official from Henley Estates, emailed a number of H&P officials, including CEO Eric Major and Chairman Christian Kalin, informing them that the client, a British national, would be arriving in Malta on 11 March 2014 for the issuance of his residence permit.
“He will be flying in by private jet and as a result of this, I wanted to alert you that he may experience interest from the media. From my experience with a client last weekend who flew in on a private aircraft – the press were tipped off and then tried to follow the clients (we had security arranged so disruption was minimal),” she wrote.
The H&P official asked what arrangements had been made “in order for the issuance of permit to proceed unhindered and for any guidance on how to ensure his visit is as smooth as possible.”
Eric Major replied, pointing out Alex Muscat, then policy coordinator at the OPM, as their contact person inside Castille.
His email indicates that the government was willing to help Henley & Partners smooth everything out for their short stays in Malta: “Thank you for your email. For your information, the Government has kindly offered to assist us in minimizing disruption or grief when high profile clients, such as Mr *****, come to visit Malta.”
“The contact person at the OPM that you and Mr. *****’s personal assistant should contact in order to coordinate his arrival on the island is Alexander Muscat (copied), whose contact details are as follows:”
Major provided the official with Muscat’s government email and Castille office phone number.
He continued: “By copy of this email, I invite Alexander to get in contact with you so that you can discuss Mr. *****’s itinerary and consider what resources will need to be arranged to ensure a positive experience.”
Major also copied in then OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri. The latter was the subject of a magisterial inquiry that looked into allegations that he received kickbacks from passport sales.
No email reply from Alex Muscat could be found in the date cache.
The collaboration sent a number of questions to Alex Muscat, now Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship and Communities and responsible for the successor to the IIP.
He was asked whether, as someone who is currently responsible for citizenship programmes, his previous role as a “contact person” for H&P led to a conflict of interest, and whether it was ethical for an OPM official to carry out duties like keeping passport clients away from media attention.
Muscat was also asked whether he, or anyone from his secretariat still carry out such duties and services to citizenship applicants.
A spokesperson said, “the Parliamentary Secretary had no role in the IIP programme. Rather, he served at the Office of the Prime Minister, who aimed to attract foreign direct investment from various high net worth clients who had passed the necessary due diligence requirements.”
Muscat’s spokesperson added that, “One particular threat to this investment was the incessant harassment carried out exclusively by the Nationalist Party, as in the instance referred to by your kind self.”
This is in relation to the reference of a passport client being “hounded” by journalists.
“The Parliamentary Secretary has never carried out personal arrangements specifically for H&P’s clients,” the spokesperson continued. He added that, “the Parliamentary Secretary does not carry out any duties or services related to citizenship applicants at present, other than his political and legal obligations as Parliamentary Secretary.”
There is nobody else from the Secretariat who carries out any such duties and services, the spokesperson said.
This is a joint investigation by The Malta Independent, MaltaToday, and other partners, coordinated by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation. The production of this investigation was supported by a grant from the Investigative Journalism for Europe (IJ4EU) fund.