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MALTATODAY 4 April 2021

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5 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 4 APRIL 2021 NEWS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Having already had unfet- tered access to Castille during the SEP-Enemalta negotia- tion in 2014, Chen had insider knowledge of the MRVP and badgered ministry staff on changes to the prospective visa programme. Specifically, he made brazen representations on behalf of Shanghai Overseas Chinese Exit-Entry Service Co. Ltd (re- ferred to as Shanghai OC) be- cause he was aware it would be the exclusive concessionaire for the Far East region. The concession had been reg- ulated by the Concession Re- view Board regulations, a board set up in 2015, apportioning the MRVP's exclusivity to regional concessionaires: Shanghai OC for China, Hong Kong and Ma- cao; Discus Holdings for Russia and Turkey; Henley & Partners for South Africa, and Nexia BT for the Middle East. But Cheng Chen's commu- nications to Mizzi's ministry were indicative that he knew his company had already been guaranteed the concession, even though the MRVP's call for concessionaries had to be put to market. Months before the finalisation of the MRVP, Chen would fire off detailed instructions on how the pro- gramme should be designed to attract Chinese clients. In March 2015, Chen made representations so that Shang- hai OC would receive a €35,000 promoter fee for each success- ful application it sourced from China. The fee was later re- duced to €10,000 on insistence of government staff. Chen sent working plans he created himself in the form of timelines for a promotional campaign that Shanghai OC would create for the MRVP, earmarking a May 2015 event for prospective applicants. He also sent proposed chang- es to the forthcoming legal no- tice in red. He also showed the ministry a draft cooperation agreement he had with BTI Management Limited, a company owned by Nexia BT auditors Brian Ton- na and Karl Cini, in which BTI would serve as an authorised mandatory for Shanghai OC to handle corporate filings and MRVP applications in Malta. Chen's associate Kevin Mao made further representations to ministry staff, indicating they had long been aware of the MRVP's eventual issue. "We have been engaged in the preparation for this project in the past months," Mao wrote. When government staff low- ered the concession fee to €10,000 and prolonged the publication of the rules, in a bid to bring on the Opposition to agree with the MRVP, Mao complained that his company had lost out on potential 2015 sales: "Actually, the regulations were supposed to be released by the end of April, but now it is almost two months late than the scheduled plan. Therefore, we have missed the best sales season due to the delay of the regulations..." Mao made several demands, kicking back against changes to the MRVP made by govern- ment employees. "Can the re- payment of marketing and pro- cessing fees be changed back to flat rate scenario (€35,000 + €5,000)? As the golden months for sales have been passed... we have to double marketing expense... We hope that the Malta government can sign the document in one week with us when the regulations release [sic]." Last week, The Times re- vealed that Chen is a partner with Mao in another compa- ny Shanghai Visabao Network Technology. Mao is separately partnered with Mizzi's long- time lawyer Aron Mifsud Bon- nici in Asiatica Corporate Ser- vices, which provides corporate services to MRVP applicants. It is now pending liquidation. Mifsud Bonnici was appoint- ed by Mizzi as secretary to the Enemalta board. He has said he knew Chen from his capacity as advisor to Shanghai Electric Power. and he met him some time into my tenure as Enemal- ta board secretary. Chen Cheng (right) shakes hands with then energy minister Konrad Mizzi at the 2014 signing of an agreement for Shanghai Electric to buy a 33 per cent stake in Enemalta What is the MRVP The residency and visa programme, launched in 2015, was intended to attract wealthy foreigners to invest in Malta in return for a residence permit and visa- free access to the Schengen Zone. It is a separate scheme from the Individual Investment Programme, that offers Maltese citizenship to wealthy investors. Applicants must purchase property in Malta worth at least €320,000, or €270,000 if it is in the south of the island or in Gozo. They must also commit to a qualifying investment worth at least €250,000 which must be held for at least five years, pay a €30,000 contribution fee, and file an affidavit proving that their annual income stands at €100,000 or that they hold a minimum capital of €500,000. The audit firm thrust into the limelight of the Panama Papers – Nexia BT – was also one of the concessionaries paid €10,000 for each successful applicant under the MRVP as official concessionaire for the Middle East. In August 2016, the audit firm was made a concessionaire following a public competition launched back in November 2015. The concession was regulated under the Concession Review Board regulations, a board set up in 2015 to rule on complaints against concessions granted by ministers to private companies. No appeals were lodged by the competing companies. Cheng Chen wanted to influence Malta visa programme

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