In the second victory in a week for proponents of CIP-related confidentiality, Malta’s Information and Data Protection Commissioner (IDPC) has sided with Identity Malta in denying local media’s requests for detailed statistics on case volume among Malta Individual Investor Programme (MIIP) service providers.
Maltese newspaper Malta Today had filed a request with Identity Malta for a comprehensive statistical breakdown of exactly how many applicants and dependents had been processed by each of the 171 accredited agents under the MIIP.
The agency originally refused the request on the basis that it was a question of confidential commercial information that would have adverse effects on government revenue if disclosed, writes Identity Malta on its own website.
Malta Today, in response to the refusal, countered that the agency had not demonstrated how the pecuniary harm potential outweighed the public interest served by disclosure. Identity Malta, in turn, retorted that “volume of business of accredited agents is not at all the concern of Identity Malta. Accredited agents do not deal with Identity Malta in the knowledge that Identity Malta will be revealing the volume of their business,” and further stated it had no legal obligation to disclose such information.
Upholding Identity Malta’s decision, the IDPC stated that reporting the number of applications filed by each accredited agent would necessarily reveal “a level of commercial activity […] which, if disclosed, may encroach on the rights and understanding of the agent or concessionaire to maintain commercial confidentiality” and that Identity Malta had a public interest in ensuring that no accredited agent is “in any way hindered in his service with any potential investors.”
Publishing such information, the IDPC said, might “cause disruption ultimately to the working of the IIP scheme. Indeed, such information may direct clients away from agents who in terms of the information revealed would not have a considerable volume of IIP-related work.”
What this statement appears to suggest, in plain English, is that if it were revealed that certain agents had a great volume of applications compared to others, said agents may enjoy an unfair competitive advantage as applicants would flock to those who already handled high numbers of applications.
But, would that be so bad? Wouldn’t it just mean that agents with a successful track record of handling large application volumes – such as Chetcuti Cauchi, Discus Holdings, Henley & Partners, Vistra, Deloitte, and KPMG (we apologize if we are leaving out high performers but, like the Maltese public, Investment Migration Insider is also not privy to this commercially sensitive information; blame the IDPC) – would be rewarded with more clients thanks to their proven ability to handle large caseloads?
Smaller firms could still compete, but they’d have to offer lower costs or quicker turnaround times or some other advantage to attract more clients. But isn’t that how virtually every other market works?