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Malta suspends 'golden passport' scheme for Russian and Belarusian citizens

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By Euronews  with AFP
A view of the new Maltese House of Parliament in Valletta.
A view of the new Maltese House of Parliament in Valletta.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/ Rene Rossignaud, File

Malta's government says it has decided to suspend the granting of so-called "golden passports" to Russian and Belarusian nationals.

Residency documents or nationality permits will not be granted to foreign investors from Russia or Belarus until further notice, the government said

Authorities said the decision late on Wednesday was taken due to "recent developments" amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The government has initially resisted growing pressure to block applicants amid the war in Ukraine.

Since 2014, foreign citizens can obtain a Maltese passport in exchange for investing around €1 million in the country.

The controversial scheme has been condemned by other EU member states, who argue that the system encourages corruption and money laundering.

Malta's Prime Minister Robert Abela has insisted that the scheme has raised hundreds of millions of euros and enabled Malta to support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malta also says that none of the Belarusian or Russian individuals on the EU sanctions list have applied for or obtained "golden passports" in the past.

Russian citizens currently account for around a quarter of all those who have obtained a "golden passport" in Malta.

The European Union said it had decided to impose "massive and severe consequences" on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine, as well as Belarus for its role in the conflict.