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Malta ‘is Blackwater’s operational base’ – MEP report

by Noel Grima
The [Malta] Independent Online

A European Parliament working document drawn up by Giovanni Claudio Fava has claimed “Malta is the operational base of Blackwater, the organiser of private military militia which are increasingly taking on more and more roles which used to be undertaken by US forces in Iraq and elsewhere”.

American left-wing and anti-war media are in full cry about the underhand and subtle changes, which have made Blackwater the new symbol of American claimed supremacy, carried out by forces other than the regular military.

California Democratic Senator Henry Waxman has been holding a number of hearings on the spread of Blackwater but even they, the more anti-war media claims, have held back from seeing the whole wide picture.

Thus the four-hour interrogation of Blackwater director Eric Prince got lost in details, even discovering for instance a December 2006 “arrangement” negotiated by the State Department as compensation for an Iraqi policeman killed by a Blackwater employee.

But it was only Republican Darrell Issa from California who documented the intimate links between Prince and the Bush administration. On the eve of the hearings, Oliver North, the former colonel who had been condemned for exchanging arms with cocaine in the fight against communism in Nicaragua, accused Senator Waxman of a huge “witch-hunt”.

Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Ohio, argued that since the military functions had been privatised, it was in Blackwater’s interest to prolong the war, rather than end it.

An article on Salon.com carried the charges by Jeremy Scahill that the Christian fundamentalists behind Blackwater were the hard core in favour of the war of George Bush and Dick Cheney and their “patron”, former Secretary of State George Schultz.

Eric Prince’s parents, Edgar Prince and his wife Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, through their foundation finance the Council for National Policy, an ultra-secret society which met in Salt Lake City on 28 September to hear Dick Cjheney argue the case for an attack on Iran.

Prince Senior is one of the pillars of Christian Coalition of Gary Bauer and of the Family Research Council of James Dobson.

Eric Prince, through his own foundation, the Freiheit Foundation, finances Christendom College, the Institute for World Politics, Crisis Magazine and the Prison Fellowship of Chuck Colson. Prince also finances the Legionnaires du Christ and Christian Freedom International.

When still 27 years old, Eric Prince founded Blackwater USA. He and those who soon joined him have profited from the more than $1,000 million they have taken as contracts from 2000 to 2006.

In 2004, Cofer Black passed from CIA to the State Department and thence became Blackwater’s vice-president. While still in the CIA, Black was in charge of the “special extraditions” organising the secret transfer of prisoners from Iraq or Afghanistan to countries less rigid against the practice of torture, such as Poland, Romania, Egypt, and so on.

These planes, which travelled between Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Afghanistan often made stopovers in many European countries such as the UK, Italy, France, Germany and Malta many times without the countries themselves being informed what was going on.

Now the Swiss procurator Dick Marty has sent documents regarding the “CIA’s flying prisons” to the European Parliament and names two Blackwater subsidiaries – Presidential Airways and Aviation Worldwide Services.

The Giovanni Claudio Fava document on behalf of the European Parliament says the two companies used CASA C-212 planes, usually used to transport paratroops and big cargoes and also able to land on improvised landing spots.

Discussion

One comment for “Malta ‘is Blackwater’s operational base’ – MEP report”

  1. You have to wonder how much this decision was prompted by austerity and how much of it is just that general impulse countries seem to have to sell themselves out to the super-rich: Malta has starting selling citizenship to wealthy individuals. The original plan, which came under EU criticism, didn’t actually require residency in Malta to gain citizenship. Just the cash. But now that a one year residency requirement has been added, Malta is open for business:

    The New York Times
    Citizenship-for-Cash Program in Malta Stirs Security Concerns in European Union
    By DAN BILEFSKYAPRIL 5, 2014

    PARIS — A program in Malta that offers citizenship for cash is raising concern among officials who fear it could open a back door into Europe and the United States for swindlers, criminals or terrorists who can afford the price tag of up to $1.57 million.

    The program, which was begun in February, has already attracted interest from hundreds of applicants, including Chinese billionaires, wealthy Russians and executives from countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates and Libya.

    Citing worries about security, opposition leaders in Malta, a Mediterranean island 50 miles south of Sicily, moved last month to block the plan. But the motion was defeated and the governing Labour Party, which has a large majority, is forging ahead with the program, which it hopes will raise $1.9 billion for development projects and job creation.

    Though Maltese officials say the plan will attract foreign investment and lift the economy, critics fear that in a race for cash, the screening process will be shortchanged — particularly since the tiny nation has outsourced the vetting of citizenship applicants to a private company that stands to make tens of millions of dollars in commissions if applicants are accepted.

    European Union officials are among those most concerned. Though selling citizenship outright is rare, Malta’s move comes as a growing number of European countries buffeted by economic hard times, including Portugal, Spain and Greece, are dangling the possibility of residency to high-flying foreigners in return for substantial investments. The United States also offers residency, though not citizenship, for entrepreneurs who invest at least $1 million and meet other criteria.

    Opponents of the program in Malta say most potential applicants have no interest in Malta, per se, but covet a European Union passport, which would allow them to live or work elsewhere in the union, including in London or Paris. Under threat of legal action by the European Commission, the union’s executive body, Malta tightened the law in January and added a one-year residency requirement before an applicant can get a passport.

    The citizenship offer — which will enable travel within the European Union’s 27 other member states and visa-free trips to 69 countries outside the bloc, including the United States — comes at a steep price: $891,000 in cash, and up to $685,000 in property and investments.

    Officials in the government of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat reject criticism that the plan is a get-rich-quick scheme that could expose Europe to a flood of undesirable entrants. “We are not trying to make a quick buck,” Kurt Farrugia, a government spokesman, said in a phone interview. “We are a small country, and we want people to know about us and invest in our country.”

    Mr. Farrugia insisted that the screening would be rigorous and that the government would make the final decision on citizenship for each applicant.

    But opponents say they are concerned about a potential conflict of interest in the vetting process, which is being subcontracted chiefly to Henley & Partners, a consulting firm based in the British Channel Islands. The company is both recruiting applicants and examining them to weed out criminals, terrorists and other questionable characters.

    Eric G. Major, the chief executive of Henley & Partners, said in a telephone interview that Iranian and Syrian applicants would not be accepted because of the international sanctions imposed against those countries. He said those interested in the program came mainly from countries from which travel is restricted.

    “They can get the travel monkey off of their backs,” Mr. Major said. Those with murky pasts, he added emphatically, need not apply.

    Under its contract with the government, Henley gets a 4 percent commission on the $891,000 fee. It will also charge client fees of $96,000 for each applicant. After vetting applicants, Identity Malta, a government agency, will make a final decision based on Henley’s recommendation. Henley will get its commission only if an applicant is accepted.

    Mr. Major said there was no conflict of interest because Henley had created a strict separation between the departments doing marketing and vetting.

    So-called golden passport or residency programs have long faced controversy, immigration experts say, including questions about money laundering and fraud. Canada, citing widespread abuses, announced last month that it would scrap a program that had offered permanent residency to foreigners who gave the government a $730,000, interest-free loan for five years.

    Some people with criminal records have slipped through the cracks in countries offering immigrant investment programs.

    The Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, who is wanted in the United States on charges of copyright infringement committed by his now-defunct file-sharing company, Megaupload, was granted New Zealand residency in 2010. He had invested about $8 million in a program for wealthy foreigners, despite convictions for insider trading and fraud in his native Germany. In 2012, he was arrested in Auckland at the request of United States officials, and he is now fighting an attempt to extradite him.

    So Henley & Partners works for a fixed fee of $96,000 per client plus a 4% commission only paid on approved applicants? What could go wrong?

    It is pretty convenient for Malta to use a firm like Henley & Partners that normally sells services to clients looking to buy citizenship. After all, If the client doesn’t get accepted by Malta, Henley & Partners is quite capable of directing the applicant towards the many other countries selling citizenship. It’s a market where expert advice is needed because there are a surprising number of sellers and each has their own expensive hoops to expensively jump through:

    World’s overlooked countries to buy second citizenship, residency
    By Ramy Inocencio, for CNN
    July 5, 2013 — Updated 1003 GMT (1803 HKT)

    Hong Kong (CNN) — Are you jaded with your home country, want to pay lower taxes, enjoy the freedom to travel and strive for a higher quality of life?

    Well, if you have as little as $100,000 then you could buy citizenship to a tiny, tropical Caribbean nation that ticks all of those boxes. Bump an investment up to $5 million and your quality of life could rocket as you go Down Under; double that and Viennese coffee could start your morning routine — with prized access through nearly all of Europe.

    Aside from obvious countries like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, who have investor programs and pathways to citizenship, here’s a list of countries you might have overlooked. They will welcome you — if you show them the money.

    1. St. Kitts and Nevis
    Cash for citizenship is an easy concept to understand. It best applies to just two countries in the world — both of which happen to be in the Caribbean — and is 100% legal and can happen in as little as a few months.

    The smallest nation in all of the Americas, the island federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, tempts would-be citizens with more than just tropical breezes, swaying palm trees and white sand beaches. It also touts no personal income tax, the allowance for multiple citizenship and visa-free access to nearly 130 countries and territories.

    “Overall, St. Kitts and Nevis clearly offers the most attractive citizenship-by-investment program available today,” said Henley and Partners, a Zurich-based consultancy specializing in global residence and citizenship planning for the past fifteen years.

    Established in 1984, St. Kitts and Nevis’ citizenship-by-investment scheme is the longest-running program in the world and offers two avenues to a new passport.

    The cheaper option requires a $250,000 contribution to the country’s Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation. Started in 2006, it aims to shift the country from a sugar-dependent to a service-oriented economy.

    Real estate investment — and a higher $400,000 investment — is the second route to citizenship. A government website conveniently lists nearly 60 approved developments — with alluring names like Sundance Ridge, Calypso Bay and Windswept Residence.

    Anyone in the world can apply for citizenship, save one country: Iran. Iranian nationals had been eligible until late 2011 when the Prime Minister’s Office suspended the program after Iranians stormed the British embassy in Tehran.

    When contacted by CNN, a St. Kitts and Nevis spokeswoman said the number of applicants accepted under the citizenship-by-investment program “is confidential information that the CIU does not provide to the public.”

    Henley and Partners noted that “few passports have been issued.”

    2. Dominica
    If you have less money to invest, Dominica is another tropical Caribbean destination to consider.

    Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, this island of just around 73,000 people has offered a citizenship-by-investment scheme since 1993. Among four package options, a single applicant investment requires just a $100,000 deposit to the National Bank of Dominica, the country’s largest financial institution. The investment amount doubles for a family of four.

    Applicants must be of “outstanding character,” must wait “at least eight weeks” for approval and must have a “basic level” of English, according to Dominica’s website detailing the citizenship path.

    More than 2,000 families have gained citizenship through the scheme, according to Henley and Partners.

    3. Antigua and Barbuda

    While not yet official, this third Caribbean island nation may allow economic citizenship as soon as this summer.

    After years of back and forth, the country’s parliament finally passed their controversial Citizenship-by-Investment Program (CIP) Bill in March, according to local reports.

    Similar to St. Kitts and Nevis, a $250,000 contribution to the country’s National Development Fund or a $400,000 real estate investment in approved developments is required. A third option is a $1.5 million “business investment” that allows an applicant to put money in government-approved businesses.

    An additional $50,000 application fee and a so-called $7,500 “due diligence fee” exist on top of the investment amount.

    If approved, new citizens will enjoy visa-free access to nearly 120 countries, which include the United Kingdom, France and Canada.

    4. Austria
    In Europe, Austria stands as the lone country where citizenship by investment is possible, according to Henley and Partners.

    The route, taken by few and accomplished by even fewer, can happen for “rendering exceptional services in the interest of the Republic,” according to an Austrian government website. One such service that has cleared prior clients, added Henley & Partners, is a direct investment of $10 million — a claim reportedly refuted by an Austrian government spokeswoman based in Washington, D.C.

    Still, successful applicants for Austrian citizenship can live in a country whose capital, Vienna, ranked as the world’s best city for quality of life in a 2012 Mercer survey.

    But you get what you pay for: Austria, with its 50% personal income tax rate, ranks among one of the highest in the world. A workaround, according to Henley & Partners, is simply to live elsewhere in Europe. Only Austrian citizens who actually reside in the country are subject to taxes.

    An Austrian passport easily gives that option by opening many borders. The country is a member of the Schengen Area with its 26 countries spanning most of western Europe sharing common borders without immigration control — not to mention more than 160 countries in total around the world — on par with Australia and Canada.

    5. Hong Kong

    While citizenship-by-investment in Hong Kong is not a possibility, residency-by-investment is. And this Chinese territory’s tax rate of just 15% stands as one of this city’s biggest draws.

    “In all of Asia, in terms of freedom to move capital, taxation and residency requirements, Hong Kong would be the best choice,” said Denny Ko, Managing Partner at Henley and Partners in Hong Kong.

    Under Hong Kong’s Capital Investment Entrant Scheme, or CIES, an investment of about $1.3 million gives applicants residency rights. You can buy stocks in companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, debt securities in airport or railway companies or certificates of deposits that mature after just one year.

    Nearly 18,000 people have gained residency by investment in Hong Kong. To maintain permanent residency status, just one visit every three years is required.

    In 2012, human resources consultancy ECA International ranked Hong Kong as Asia’s third most livable city, with Sydney coming in second.

    6. Singapore
    However Singapore ranked as Asia’s number one livable city in 2012, according to ECA International.

    Similar to Hong Kong, the Lion City’s personal income tax rates are among the lowest in Asia — ranging from 15% to 20% depending on income bracket, according to auditing firm KPMG.

    But “for Singapore, it would not be so easy” to become a permanent resident, said Jacqueline Low, COO at immigration services firm Janus. “The criteria are quite high.”

    Potential applicants must have a three-year track record of business and entrepreneurial experience, Low add. They must also prove past profitability — annual revenues of some $160 million in real estate and construction-related industries or revenues of about $40 million for all other industries, including pharmaceuticals and manufacturing.

    With such foundations, candidates can then apply to Singapore’s sole track to permanent residency, the Global Investor Program. This scheme requires an investment of nearly $2 million. The funds can go towards starting a new business or expand one already in operation. Money can also be routed to an approved list of funds that help grow targeted industries ranging from nanotechnology, healthcare and clean energy.

    The Singaporean government does not release information on the numbers of candidates or successful GIP applicants, says Janus’ Low. However, since the middle of 2012 she notes “Singapore’s immigration policies have been tightened across the board because of the sentiments on the ground” — a reference to growing public unease over the number of migrants to the city.

    The number of applicants that Janus has seen have “fallen considerably over the past year,” she added, but the quality of applicants has risen.

    For applicants who are successful, however, permanent residency is a pathway to Singaporean citizenship after just two years. A Singaporean passport gives access to more than 160 countries around the world — just five less than the United States, according to Henley and Partners.

    7. Australia

    If you have money to burn and want to go down under for permanent residency and potential citizenship, then Australia’s Significant Investor Visa is the way to start.

    Launched in November 2012, the program targets high net-worth individuals and requires a roughly $4.7 million investment. Applicants can invest in government bonds, infrastructure projects or private companies.

    In return — and in as little as three months — a significant investor visa can be issued. After four years, holders can apply for permanent residency.

    From the program’s launch through May, more than 170 applications have been filed. If all are given the green light, Australia will receive $850 million in new foreign investment.

    Hopefully, now the Malta is bringing in some extra cash, there will be more resources available for the immigrants that can’t afford Henley & Partner’s global services. Hopefully.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 6, 2014, 7:32 pm

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