Chasing high net worth individuals

Source: Mr George M. Mangion¸ PKF Malta

As published on The Malta Independent on Sunday 27th October 2013

It was during my first business trip in 1991 to Hong Kong that I realized the potential existed to attract high net worth investors only 3 years after the tragic Tiananmen Square massacre when a students rebellion was crushed by the army using armored tanks. It  was evident that the mood among business people was to acquire  a second passport somewhere in Europe when the Chinese Communist party is handed over the island (previously a UK protectorate) they could have a getaway option just in case things get tough. Having secured a list of around 25 investors who were introduced and vetted by a trusted representative in our accounting network in HongKong¸ I made preliminary discussions with the finance minister in Malta and got a prima facie approval for the issue of passports subject to usual formalities and of course on condition that they make a contribution to the economy by way of either substantial property investment or approved direct investment in companies that can provide sustainable jobs for locals. This was all rather exciting for me and would have paved the way for repeat applications. It goes without saying that one had to strike while the iron is hot since the window of opportunity will not remain open for ever and Malta was competing with other strong contenders such as Canada and Singapore both of which were  keen to give them naturalization rights. The party never started as the ministry responsible for foreign affairs blocked the scheme in its initial stages and refused to contemplate even issuing application forms. With hindsight¸ I reflect how the Fenech Adami government refused to offer Maltese citizenship rights to Chinese high net worth investors and as can be expected it was Canada (mostly in Vancouver) where such people settled and developed massive high rise condominiums which created so much wealth for the host country. Most of the Chinese never settled in host countries as they only used the second passport as a leverage just in case the Communist regime would start tightening the screws. Upon reflection it was part of  the  Fenech Adami style of tax and spend while borrowing from  the locals  when budgets were in the red – he always found  warm support from banks and private investors who snapped up government bonds issued annually to tidy over the perennial  deficit. It is true that our incentive legislation package always had different ways how to attract high net worth individuals but passports were never offered for sale . Now we read and hear so much opposition by the leader of the Opposition against a  new Bill called Individual Investor Programme. It took almost 22 years since my first attempt to attract Chinese investors for the Labour government to warm  up to the idea of issuing  passports to accredited non-domiciled persons paying a princely contribution of € 650¸000 and thus put in action a novel FDI initiative the revenue from which will be deposited in a posterity fund. A new agency styled‘identity malta’ (I.M )is born with powers to  grant a certificate of naturalisation as a citizen of Malta to any person who makes an extraordinary contribution under the Individual Investor Programme.As can be expected there was a great deal of razzmatazz created by the legal practitioners against