Sunday

19th Jan 2020

Russian with Malta passport in money-laundering probe

  • Finnish police raided businesses over the weekend (Photo: European Parliament)

A Russian national with a Maltese passport is reportedly part of a €10m international laundering racket in south-west Finland.

Finnish police raided over the weekend a real-estate agency known as Airiston Helmi, which sold properties in Finland's Turku archipelago.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Finnish state media outlet YLE on Monday (24 September) reported the Airiston Helmi chair of the board is a Russian national with Maltese citizenship.

It said millions of euros worth of properties were acquired through business purchases given Airiston Helmi's registry does not identify the buyer, a common method to launder money.

Matthew Caruana Galizia, a Maltese investigative reporter, on twitter identified the Airiston Helmi chair, noting his name appears in the Malta government gazette of 19 August 2016.

The case casts a long shadow over Malta's scheme that allows a person to gain citizenship in return for a €650,000 contribution to the country's development fund.

It also requires them to purchase or lease property and invest at least €150,000 in stocks and bonds.

EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova, earlier this year, shed doubt on the passport sales - with similar schemes also found in Austria, Bulgaria and Cyprus.

"It is a big concern when a Russian citizen who has worked his whole life in middle or senior management - where salaries aren't very high - suddenly has the money to buy citizenship in Malta," she told the Financial Times newspaper.

Malta's passport sale allows a foreign national to retain dual citizenship, providing them the right to live and work in the European Union, visa-free travel to the Schengen area and the United States.

The island-nation says it bars any individual from the scheme who has been previously denied a visa to an EU state as part of its due diligence. It also agreed to publish the names of the buyers following pressure from the European Parliament.

A Financial Times 'guide to global citizenship' report from September ranked Malta's due diligence higher than Austria, Bulgaria and Cyprus.

The issue has generated intense controversy in Malta after its launch in 2014 amid plans to raise some €1.2bn in revenue. The passports are issued through Henley & Partners, a London-based firm.

A Democracy Index published by The Economist earlier this year said Malta had recorded the sharpest decline in Western Europe given the unsolved murder of investigative reporter, Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The slain journalist had in late 2013 uncovered a Henley & Partners PDF presentation that promised Russians a fast track for EU citizenship via Malta, before the scheme had been approved by the Maltese parliament.

The Times of Malta later reported in 2017 that Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat along with his chief of staff Keith Schembri attended numerous roadshows and conferences to promote the sale of Maltese passports.

Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Simon Busuttil spent 10 years as an MEP before returning to Malta to lead the opposition. He now fears for his life amid probes into high-level corruption in Malta's government.

Opinion

Caruana Galizia one year on: momentum is key

EU institutions must continue to seek justice for the killers of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruna Galizia in order to protect press freedom in Europe.

Interview

Bulgarian 'EU passports' whistleblower wants justice

Katya Mateva, a former director in Bulgaria's ministry of justice turned whistleblower, says high-ranking politicians behind a scam leading to Bulgarian citizenship are likely to go unpunished.

Muscat's one-man rule poses challenge for EU

Malta's PM already enjoys the kind of one-man rule Hungary and Poland are trying to build, but can the EU afford another political confrontation in sensitive times?

News in Brief

  1. 'No objection in principle' on Huawei cooperation, EU says
  2. French aircraft carrier goes to Middle East amid tensions
  3. EU suggests temporary ban on facial recognition
  4. EU industry cries foul on Chinese restrictions
  5. 'Devil in detail', EU warns on US-China trade deal
  6. Trump threatened EU-tariffs over Iran, Germany confirms
  7. EU trade commissioner warns UK of 'brinkmanship'
  8. Germany strikes coal phase-out deal

European politicians caught with Russian 'fake likes'

Politicians and political parties in Europe have had bots generate fake 'likes', views, and comments to boost their online popularity, in what has been described as outright voter manipulation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us