The European Commission and the United States said that they would be taking measures to stop Golden Passport schemes for Russians as part of the sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Consequently, Malta had to suspend the scheme for Russians and Belarusians in a dramatic change of stance. The suspension applies to Malta’s citizenship-by-investment scheme and a residency through investment scheme.
Prime Minister Robert Abela initially resisted calls to halt the scheme for applicants from Russia and its ally Belarus. He claimed that the program had raised hundreds of millions of euros and enabled Malta to give generous assistance to businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo claimed that none of the Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the EU had received a Maltese passport. He argued that many Russian applicants to the Maltese scheme sought to escape Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
In 2019, the EU Commission that Golden Passport schemes posed money-laundering and organized crime risks. Malta has not listened to the warning and was consequently greylisted by the FATF in June 2021 because it has done far too little to prevent money laundering in recent years. The greylisting has had a massive impact on the country.