Edi Rama is on the schedule to speak at the Henley & Partners 13th Global Citizenship Conference in London next week.
Henley & Partners are a global citizenship firm that advises governments on residence and citizenship policies as well as working with them to develop and implement so-called ‘citizenship programs.’ Dubbed ‘cash for passport’ schemes, they allow for wealthy individuals to acquire a passport in exchange for investments in that particular country.
Such schemes have been implemented in Malta, Cyprus, Moldova, Montenegro, and Bulgaria, among others. The scheme has come under fire from the European Commission, EU Parliament, Council of Europe, and the United Nations for the risks it poses. Earlier this year, the EC said such schemes could help organised crime groups infiltrate Europe and increase the risk of “money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.”
Moldova has since suspended their scheme and Bulgarian officials were found to be running a scam that sold passports in return for bribes.
A recent report by Transparency International called “European Getaway: Inside the Murky World of Golden Visas” noted how such schemes pose a high risk of financial crimes and money laundering.
A UK Parliamentary Committee found that SCL Group (the parent company of Cambridge Analytica), Henley & Partners chairman Christian Kalin, and the Leader of the Maltese Labour Party Joseph Muscat had met prior to the 2013 parliamentary elections.
“We understand that SCL certainly had meetings in Malta and that Christian Kalin of Henley & Partners was introduced by SCL to Joseph Muscat in 2011, and that Christian Kalin met with both political parties before 2013,” the report noted.
Muscat then went on to win the elections and immediately implement the cash-for-passports scheme in collaboration with Henley & Partners.
Four years before her assassination, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had written about the alleged link between SCL/Cambridge and the Maltese Labour Party’s victory. She wrote “SCL Elections is an ‘election services’ company registered in Britain, with a close connection to Henley & Partners. It claims to have never lost an election on which it worked”.
Likewise Henley & Partners have threatened legal action against portals that report on them using vexatious SLAPP lawsuits that are designed to financially cripple them. Maltese portal The Shift News received a threat in December 2017 from the company, demanding it removes an article about them. The Shift News refused. Daphne Caruana Galizia also received threats.
It then came to light that Henley & Partners would only proceed with legal action against Maltese journalists if they got “at least an informal ok of the key decision-makers,” referring to Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Rama will be speaking alongside Muscat and Kalin. Exit sent questions to Henley & Partners asking if Albania is set to launch a cash-for-passport scheme, and what the topic of Rama’s speech would be. They replied that his speech “will consider how small countries are in a highly competitive market for external capital, be it FDI or capital markets based liquidity.” In response to whether Albania could be about to sell its passport, they said “nice try- but honestly I do not know and would hesitate to speculate about the policies of a sovereign state of which I know little.”
In August 2019, the Albanian government proposed changes to the Law on Citizenship, and in the accompanying report included the possibility for foreigners to acquire Albanian citizenship through investment. Whether Henley and Partners would be interested or whether they will become concessionaires in this new development remains to be seen.
Holders of an Albanian passport get visa free travel and a three month visa-free stay in the European Union, and visa free travel to 116 countries worldwide.