VALLETTA, Malta — An advisory firm that plays a major role in promoting the citizenship by investment (CBI) programs run by Grenada and Saint Lucia, and also was similarly involved in the corresponding program in St Kitts and Nevis, has been accused of conspiring to assassinate a Maltese journalist who was killed by a car bomb earlier this week.
Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, a journalist who led the Panama Papers investigation into corruption in Malta, had recently filed a police report complaining of death threats.
She had exposed numerous offshore dealings of prominent figures in Malta and was also the mother of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) developer and data journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia.
The chairman of citizenship consultants Henley and Partners, Christian Kalin, has now been named by Caruana Galizia’s children as being part of a “gang of crooks” who sought to “financially cripple” the renowned journalist.
“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.
In May she reported that she had “evidence in the form of email exchanges” that legal action by Henley and Partners against her was “taken on instruction from, and in collusion with” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri, and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici.
Henley and Partners were recently implicated in a regional controversy after a report was published online on August 18, 2017 concerning an alleged scheme to obtain a diplomatic passport from the government of Grenada for a Ukrainian businessman, in exchange for a payment of US$1 million to a purported Henley account with wells Fargo Singapore.
These allegations had previously come to light in Caribbean government circles on
October 27, 2016, when the individual in question sent an email to the prime minister of
Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, saying that he had been dealing with “a person called Chris who represents Henley and Partner who according to him are authorized as agents and advisors to Antigua and St Lucia.”
Browne responded that “we do not sell diplomatic appointments; therefore, the country concerned could not be Antigua and Barbuda… If perchance someone represented that they could sell you an Antiguan diplomatic appointment, you need to move quickly to recover your funds, because that [the sale of diplomatic passports] is not possible under the stewardship of my government”.
“Chris” was later identified in online report as Christopher Willis, the former managing partner of Henley & Partners Caribbean, who has since left the firm.
On November 14, 2016, the Ukrainian businessman sent the same inquiry to Grenada member of parliament, Alexandra Otway-Noel, then the minister responsible for the Grenada citizenship by investment programme.
One week later on November 21, 2016, he told Ottway-Noel that he had “received confirmation from Chris who has confirmed funds will be returned within three days”.
Ottway-Noel resigned in January 2017 as a member of the ruling New National Party (NNP) government in Grenada.
In a press statement on August 21, 2017, the government of Grenada denied “any knowledge of this allegation or activity”, a position that was not supported by the facts in the light of the emails regarding the matter written by Ottway-Noel at a time when she was a senior government minister.
Ottway-Noel has since confirmed that she did in fact receive the emails in question and responded as reported.
The Grenada government also claimed that it “does not even have a diplomatic passport programme in the first place, and is therefore not in the business of selling diplomatic passports to anyone.”
However, again this assertion is contradicted by history and the granting of Grenada diplomatic passports in questionable circumstances by previous administrations led by current prime minister, Dr Keith Mitchell, has been dealt with extensively in leaked diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Bridgetown, published by Wikileaks.
Notwithstanding that the government of Antigua and Barbuda was a completely innocent and uninvolved bystander in the matter, Henley nevertheless transmitted the following message to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, blaming one of its competitors, Arton Capital, for instigating the story:
“Wells Fargo Bank now also confirmed that the screenshot is false, there has never been any such transactions and there is no such bank account. And our forensic experts have triangulated with almost 99% certainty that this fake news story was instigated by Arton. We are considering to demand that goverment (sic) stops any interaction with Arton immediately or we will stop instead.”
In response, a spokesman for Arton said: “Arton Capital strongly rejects these allegations and denies any involvement in this story. It is certainly not in the business of disseminating ‘fake news’. Arton Capital takes its reputation extremely seriously and will take all necessary steps to correct falsehoods and protect its hard-won reputation for trust and diligence. The founders of the company are committed to driving forward the highest standards of best practice, regulation, and governance for the citizenship industry.”
Further, on its face, the message in question represented an apparent attempt at extortion by Henley in seeking to obtain a commercial advantage by means of a threat.
To compound the situation, in a widely disseminated “media statement” dated Thursday, August 24, 2017, Henley falsely claimed that the government of Antigua and Barbuda had confirmed in a separate statement that allegations concerning the “sale” of diplomatic passports are completely false.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda had issued no such statement, and in fact would be incapable of doing so since it had already made clear that it had no knowledge whatsoever of the events and circumstances in question. The claim by Henley that it did so was accordingly an outright lie.
Henley never responded to a request to produce the statement in question that it claimed to have been issued by the government of Antigua and Barbuda.
The publication of such a lie as fact by Henley represented the dissemination of “fake news” which, in an even more bizarre turn of events, its US lawyers acknowledged in a letter dated August 29, 2017, to Caribbean News Now, confirming that the making of false claims and the dissemination of “fake news” by its client constituted “criminal conduct”.
Henley’s own lawyers therefore apparently acknowledged their client’s criminal conduct, with the intent thereby to impede, obstruct or influence the administration of justice contrary to US law (18 USC § 1519 – Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy):
“Whoever knowingly … conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document… with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States … or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
A complaint against Henley in this respect has been filed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other relevant US federal agencies.