Ahead of his speech at the Henley and Partners ‘Global Citizenship Conference’ in London, Prime Minister Edi Rama was greeted by a group of protesters shouting “Rama go” and waving the Albanian flag.
Rama was speaking at the conference on the topic of how small countries are in a highly competitive market for external capital including FDI, alongside the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat.
Malta sells passports to wealthy investors for EUR 1.2 million. Henley and Partners are a global citizenship advisory that takes a cut of each passport that is sold in the countries where they are active.
Rama has not commented on the presence of the protesters or anything to do with his speech and involvement in the event.
It is not clear why Rama was invited to speak on the topic of FDI at the conference as Albania has very low rates of FDI and little interest from foreign investors.
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. It is not known whether this change was made to pave the way for a partnership with Henley and Partners who are concessionaires in cash-for-passport schemes in countries like Malta, Bulgaria, and Moldova.
Moldova has since suspended their scheme and Bulgarian officials were found to be running a scam that sold passports in return for bribes.
When Exit asked Henley and Partners if Albania was going to start selling 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.”
Cash for passports schemes are highly controversial and have been widely criticized by EU Parliament, the Council of Europe, the European Commission and Transparency international due to a high risk of financial crime and money laundering.
In fact, in Malta, a total of five ‘new’ Maltese citizens that bought passports have been arrested for financial crimes including fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering in the last 12 months. Several of them had pending cases and investigations against them while they were going through the application process.
Henley and Partners were found by a UK Parliamentary Committee to have met Maltese politician Joseph Muscat and SCL Group (the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, offering ‘election services’) prior to the 2013 general elections. Muscat won by a landslide, became Prime Minister and announced the cash-for-passport scheme shortly after.
Cambridge Analytica have recently been involved in controversy relating to influencing elections in a number of countries, including the Brexit referendum in the UK. SCL claimed they had “never lost an election” on which they worked.