The regulator for Malta’s passport selling programme has slammed the passport agent caught boasting of his ministerial connections during a French TV undercover expose.
“[We] can only conclude that the Agent could be charged with disseminating totally misleading information for reasons best known to him, probably by way of an insensible sales promotion,” the regulator for the Individual Investor Programme said following an investigation.
In the report, the regulator also cleared Junior Minister for Citizenship Julia Farrugia Portelli of any collusion.
“There was no indication of collusion between the Agent and the responsible Minister (or with the Agency) or that the former, at any point, since the start of the programme, had ever received any preferential treatment,” they said.
While failing to divulge whether they personally looked into any communication with the pair, the regulator said it was merely “improbable” or “impossible” for an agent to influence an application, given the checks in place.
They also added that any article that could be invoked by the Junior Minister was not used in the agent’s applications.
The video in question showed Jean Phillippe Chetcuti of Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates name drop Farrugia Portelli, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici when meeting who he thought were prospective passport buyers.
He also added that when it came to buyers with a criminal record, authorities ‘wink’ when suggesting certain things.
The regulator, however, has rubbished Chetcuti Cauchi’s claims of influence arguing that he slandered both the cabinet members and the programme itself.
The regulator clarified that no applicants with a criminal background were ever presented by Chectcui Cauchi, adding there was only one incident in every single application that had a criminal reforged.
“The Agent in question was not CCA, and the application was refused outrightly,” they said.
It did, however, find a loophole in Article 6, which technically allows for people with a criminal record to be employed. This, they said, should be suspended immediately.
The allegation that the agent has a 100% success rate was also proven incorrect, with 16% of his applications were not approved.
A magisterial inquiry has since been launched into trading in influence claims against Chetcuti, with the law considering the mere suggestion a criminal offence.
Since the recording was published, the government’s IIP agency has suspended Chetcuti Cauchi’s license to sell citizenship.
A separate investigation by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler is also underway into potential trading in influence.
Beyond the claim, the issue proved to be more controversial after Chetcuti Cauchi was revealed to have used the halls of Castille as a backdrop in a video promoting its services as agents of the Individual Investor Programme.
Farrugia Portelli has said she was unaware that they used the halls, despite featuring in the video.
The full report can be found here: pr192433a.