Henley and Moldova: A match made in heaven (or hell)

The recent announcement by Henley & Partners that it has “won the public tender to design, implement, and internationally promote the much-anticipated Moldova Citizenship-by-Investment (MCBI) program” brings together two parties ideally suited to each other.

Moldova, a former Soviet republic, just this month told Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin that it will not be “friends with the West against Russia,” an assurance hardly calculated to win friends in the West, where presumably most if not all of its new economic citizens would really like to be able to travel.

Also this month, European lawmakers expressed serious concern over the “further deterioration” of democratic standards in Moldova, after local courts invalidated the results of a mayoral election in the capital, Chisinau.

“The decision of the courts, which already have been many times cited as politically influenced and driven, is an example of state capture and a very deep crisis of institutions in Moldova,” the European Parliament said in a resolution passed on July 5 by a vote of 343-35, with 160 abstentions.

The European legislators called on Moldovan authorities to respect the will of voters and to reform the judicial system in order to prevent the situation from escalating further.

They also reiterated “concerns about the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a narrow group of people, deterioration of the rule of law, of democratic standards, and of respect for human rights.”

The lawmakers also cited “the excessive politicization of state institutions, systemic corruption, insufficient investigation of the 2014 banking fraud, and limited media pluralism.”

The previous day, the European Union decided to freeze the first tranche of a 100 million euro macrofinancial aid package for Moldova, saying the recent voiding of the Chisinau election violates key preconditions for getting the assistance: respecting democracy and the rule of law.

In 2015, Moldova was thrown into political and economic turmoil after the disappearance of more than $1 billion from three major Moldovan banks — Banca de Economii, Banca Sociala, and Unibank.

The money’s disappearance from Moldova’s banking system between 2012 and 2014 was dubbed by Moldovans the “theft of the century” and cost the country roughly one-eighth of its annual gross domestic product.

A number of people, including former Prime Minister Vlad Filat, have been jailed in connection with the case, which crippled the national currency and led to street protests and aid freezes.

Henley, on the other hand, has been implicated in election manipulation in order to install governments favorable to its commercial interests.

Henley also managed the economic citizenship program in Malta, where local investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had featured the company in many of her investigations, alleging that the Maltese citizenship programme was based on bribery, embezzlement.

Caruana Galizia’s children accused Henley of being part of a “gang of crooks” who sought to “financially cripple” their mother.

“There was a gang of crooks, including Christian Kalin of Henley and Partners, and lawyers at Mischon de Reya in London, who conspired with politicians in Malta to financially cripple my mother with one vexatious lawsuit after another,” Matthew Caruana Galizia posted on Facebook.

Caruana Galizia was assassinated in a car bomb explosion in Malta last year.

Henley’s sponsored tame industry oversight association Investment Migration Council (IMC) was sued in Dubai for defamation by arch rival Arton Capital.

The firm has been accused of facilitating the issue of a Grenada diplomatic passport to a Ukrainian businessman in exchange for $1 million – an allegation that has attracted the attention of the investigation into Russian-related matters by special counsel Robert Mueller in Washington. As part of this, Henley were exposed as having issued a false press statement and threatened one of Arton Capital’s government clients, Antigua and Barbuda.

Henley’s “Global Residence and Citizenship Programs 2017–2018 report” was widely ridiculed by the industry at large as “inaccurate”, “self-serving”, “flawed” and “poppycock”.

Meanwhile, a Moldovan opposition party, Partidul Acțiune și Solidaritate (Party of Action and Solidarity) has raised the alarm over the deal the Moldovan government signed with Henley.

“What do you want to turn Moldova into, gentlemen? Into a paradise of offenders?” the PAS party wrote in a public statement.

Good luck to new Moldovan citizens. Perhaps sooner or later you will also be Russians.

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