A number of NGOs have denied knowingly receiving donations from golden passport buyers, after Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri presented parliament with a list of entities that had benefited from such donations.
The golden passport scheme refers to a controversial government programme allowing individuals to purchase Maltese citizenship against a “direct investment” of at least €600,000, together with other forms of investment, including donations to local philanthropic or voluntary organisations.
Camilleri was replying to a parliamentary question made by PN MP Graziella Galea, in which she asked the minister to list the social and educational initiatives funded through Community Malta Agency, the government agency responsible for administering the citizenship scheme.
In his reply, Camilleri listed a total of 38 organisations that received donations through the scheme from 2020 onwards.
NGOs Repubblika and Moviment Graffitti, both of whom appeared on the list, issued separate statements in reply to Camilleri’s statement, denying that they ever knowingly received donations from anyone who bought Maltese citizenship. Both NGOs are vocal critics of the scheme.
Repubblika later confirmed that it had unknowingly received a donation of €1,500, saying that it had refunded the donation once it was made aware of it.
Times of Malta received several requests from readers to verify whether it is possible for NGOs to receive donations through the golden passports scheme without being aware of it.
How does the scheme work?
The scheme’s current structure is set out through a legal notice (L.N. 188.06) published in November 2020 which establishes Community Malta Agency, the organisation which now manages the scheme.
The scheme obliges prospective applicants to donate a minimum of €10,000 to an NGO or philanthropic organisation.
Prior to this legal notice, it was not obligatory for applicants to donate to NGOs, although doing so would boost their application. Funds received through the scheme at the time were administered through the government’s National Development and Social Fund (NDSF), a fund created to receive 20% of all income received through the golden passports scheme.
The list presented in parliament by Camilleri does not include organisations that benefited through the NDSF, but only lists those who received donations through the more recent scheme managed by Community Malta Agency from 2020 onwards.
Does the donation go directly to the NGO?
Applicants are instructed to donate directly to the NGO of their choice, often doing so directly via bank transfer.
Speaking to Times of Malta, a spokesperson for Community Malta Agency said the agency is not involved in the selection of the NGO – it is the applicant’s prerogative.
“The donation is directly given to the NGO. The applicant is required to provide a receipt of such payment and a confirmation from the Commissioner of Voluntary Organisations that the beneficiary is a registered and compliant voluntary organisation”.
Data obtained by Times of Malta shows that to date, a total of just over €660,000 was donated to 46 NGOs across 77 separate donations through the current scheme managed by Community Malta Agency.
Of these, Repubblika and Moviment Graffitti were each the beneficiary of a single donation of €1,500.
Are NGOs notified when an applicant donates to them?
This varies on a case-by-case basis, but there is currently no mechanism through which NGOs are automatically notified or informed that a donation they have received is being listed in an application for Maltese citizenship.
Several NGOs who spoke to Times of Malta said they were unaware that any donations they had received formed part of an application through the citizenship scheme.
A number of other NGOs on the list presented by Camilleri said they came to know that a donation formed part of an application for citizenship while carrying out their own due diligence.
Some NGOs, on the other hand, said they were approached directly by a licenced agent, informing them that a prospective applicant intended to grant them a donation as part of their application process.
Several of the NGOs who spoke to Times of Malta argued that they would like to receive prior notification of any donations made to them being used within an application for citizenship.
When contacted, the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations Jesmond Saliba confirmed there is no legal obligation for NGOs to be notified when they are recipients of funds through the citizenship scheme.
“In the light of what happened, it would be wise to oblige licensed agents to inform NGOs that they will be featured in a citizenship application”, he said.
Prospective applicants to the golden passport scheme must donate a sum of €10,000 to any number of NGOs of their choice as part of their application. This donation is given directly to the NGO by the applicant or the licensed agent managing the application.
NGOs are not automatically notified when a donation granted to them is listed in an application, however, some get to know about this when carrying out their own due diligence.
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