05.10.2022

Founder of ‘pro-Brexit’ think tank ‘buys EU passport via Malta’

A New Zealand-born backer of a think tank advocating a hard Brexit has obtained an EU passport through Malta, it has been reported.

Christopher Chandler, founder of Legatum, which backs leaving the single market and the customs union, has become a citizen of the Mediterranean island.

Critics branded the move double standards as the passport would give him the right to live and work in any European country. A hard Brexit is expected to leave Britons without that same privilege.

The names of Mr Chandler and family members appear on a list of individuals who became naturalised citizens of Malta in 2016, the Financial Times reported.

Mark Stoleson, chief executive of Legatum, also appears on the list.

Others, including Malta-based actor Alan Montanaro, criticised the reported development. “He wants to get everyone out while he creeps back in,” he wrote on Twitter.

Mr Chandler made his fortune in the “wild capitalism” days in Russia in the 1990s, when state-run companies were privatised. His former company, Sovereign Global, was the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia by 1994.

Malta’s “citizenship by investment” programme has been accused of being a gateway for foreign investors to secure the benefits of an EU passport. Applicants can gain a passport in return for a €650,000 (£571,900) contribution to the national development fund and the purchase or lease of property, and investments of at least €150,000 in stocks and bonds.

Members of the European Parliament have called for the Malta scheme to be scrapped.

The list reportedly includes Boris Mints, a Russian entrepreneur and philanthropist, and Arkady Volozh, the founder of Yandex, Russia’s biggest search engine.

A spokesperson for the Legatum Group said: “In July and August 2015 Christopher Chandler and Mark Stoleson, partners of the Legatum Group, applied for Maltese citizenship as part of a highly-regulated, EU-sanctioned scheme. Like many entrepreneurs who have complex international business careers, they decided that this would provide helpful flexibility for their travel and investment arrangements. Citizenship was approved after a thorough due diligence process by the Maltese government two years ago in December 2015.

“The decision to apply for Maltese citizenship by Mr Chandler and Mr Stoleson had nothing to do with Brexit. It pre-dated the passing of the European Union Referendum Act 2015 and was long before the referendum result in June 2016.

“Since neither Mr Stoleson nor Mr Chandler are British citizens, Brexit makes no difference to their arrangements.”

UPDATE (25.06.20): A previous version of this article referred to Christopher Chandler as a “Brexiteer”. We are happy to make clear that Mr Chandler has never personally taken a public position on Brexit. The article has been amended accordingly.

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