Dozens of Saudi nationals belonging to two of the country’s wealthiest families became Maltese citizens – and thus citizens of the European Union – last year after paying millions of dollars to buy the country’s passports, the Times of Malta reported.
The Maltese passport allows freedom of movement within the EU, since the holder of the passport has automatic European citizenship.
Earlier this week, Malta’s government gazette published the names of 62 Saudis belonging to the al-Muhaidib and al-Agil families, who were named by Forbes magazine as among the richest in the world.
The newspaper pointed out that the family members, most of them minors, became Maltese citizens in 2017, and might not have set foot on Maltese territory yet.
Established in 1946, the al-Muhaidib Group deals in construction and foodstuffs. It is headed by Sulaiman Al-Muhaidib, whose fortune, according to Forbes, exceeds $3.4bn.
He acquired the Maltese passport along with 34 of his brothers, spouses and family members.
The al-Agil family, which owns the Jarir Group business empire, has a wealth of over $1.7bn and obtained 27 Maltese passports.
The Jarir Group, which is listed on the Saudi Stock Exchange, is controlled by brothers Mohammed, Abdulkarim, Abdulsalam, Abdullah and Nasser. All of them acquired Maltese passports.
According to the Times of Malta, the list published by the gazette does not provide information on the amount of money paid by the Muhaidib and Agil families for the passports.
The Malta authorities have refused calls to publish a list of foreigners who have obtained citizenship through payment, and instead publish the names of new Maltese citizens every year, including those who went through the long process of naturalization.
According to the Times of Malta, a large proportion of the buyers of the Maltese passport are from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.