Henley & Partners (Antigua Ltd.) has gone into voluntary liquidation here, even as its parent company – Henley & Partners – is denying involvement in a passport scandal that rocked the Government of Malta and sparked a 2017 murder.
A notice in the April 16 Daily Observer confirms that, by “special resolution,” the local company resolved that it “be wound up voluntarily and that Charles Walwyn and Robert Wilkinson of Grant Thornton … be appointed liquidator for the purpose….”
“The reasons behind the decision are not known, and no mention of the company’s liquidation was made in today’s Cabinet Notes or press briefing.
When contacted about the matter, Foreign Affairs Minister E.P. Chet Greene suggested our News Room contact the CIU Unit or Prime Minister Gaston Browne “for any confirmation or clarification.” However, an email query to the head of the Unit went unanswered up to press time.
Other inquiries among the legal fraternity yielded no answers, as several attorneys said they were unaware of the move to wind up the company.
But, “it would appear that Antigua is the only country where the liquidation is taking place,” one lawyer says, “because I checked their website and they are still operating in the UK, etc.”
However, a Washington source alleges that Henley & Partners – the architect of Antigua & Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Program – has been under multiple investigations in Europe and the United States.
Further, the source tells Real News that he believes indictments related to the Malta scandal are imminent.
Reports out of Malta say the results of a probe called the “Passport Papers” were published in the media today. The investigation began in the summer of 2020 and came out of documents leaked to an anti-corruption journalist, who was subsequently murdered.
Her investigation uncovered passports that were sold, reportedly without the appropriate checks, by the then Government. The ensuing scandal brought down Labour Party Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who resigned last January.
According to online reports, “The programme of selling passports in exchange for investments, called the Malta Individual Investor Programme, was repeatedly contested by the European Commission.
“Irregularities had already emerged years ago, and the head of [Identity Malta], Jonathan Cardona, was ousted.“According to the Passport Papers reporting, Cardona had a direct line with Henley & Partners, the concessionaires of the passport sale programme.”
Meanwhile, Henley put out a statement today, April 22, saying it “is proud of the service that it has provided to Malta and its people” via its passport-sale programme.
Apparently defending claims that passport recipients were not properly vetted, the company says it is “fully aware of the potential inherent risks in handling client applications … and [has] invested significant time and capital … to create a governance structure … with due diligence at its heart.
“However, ultimately, it is the responsibility of the countries involved to investigate and vet applicants. As a private company, we are neither required by law to do so, nor do we have access to the same level of background information, contacts and resources that government authorities have,” the statement continues.
Therefore, Henley claims, “it is fundamentally false and potentially defamatory to suggest that there is a systemic problem, or that the programs we are involved in are for nefarious purposes. They are not.”
The passport-for-investment specialists say “only a very small percentage of applications – significantly less than 1% of all applications over a period of many years – have later been called into question or been found to have been potentially misused….”