Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has deflected criticism at Malta’s controversial sale-of-citizenship programme, telling a conference in Dubai the scheme was about more than getting money to Malta.
“We are not in the business of giving away or commoditising citizenship,” he said. “It is not about cash or rich people and trying to get a slice out of them.”
“The raison d’etre of our programme is not about getting the richest people to buy something. It’s about interaction and seeing how to match the right people to the programme. Our experience has been completely opposite. Most of the people who applied were not the headline grabbers, known people. Most of the time they would fit the profile of being hardworking, self-made individuals, who have a strong global network.”
In a tweet, former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil dismissed the Prime Minister’s statement by reminding him of a leaked report by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit. The report in question had implicated the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri of taking kickbacks from the IIP scheme.
I’m not sure the PM’s Chief of Staff would agree with him on this one. Remember the FIAU report? https://t.co/9OKFOt0BlV
— Simon Busuttil (@SimonBusuttil) October 25, 2017
As part of the government’s contract with Henley and Partners, Muscat must promote the Individual Investor Programme at its regular roadshows around the world. His visit to Dubai today was criticised by the Nationalist Party, which claimed the Prime Minister is trying to give off the impression it was business as usual for him in the wake of the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Muscat spared some words for Caruana Galizia’s murder at the start of his speech, praising the reaction of the public and the institutions to it.
“The reaction of anger and grief to this barbaric act shows this was an exceptional circumstance,” he said. “I am proud of our people and their reactions because it shows that we all want justice to be done.”
“Malta, like other countries, does not live in a cocoon and we can fall victim to financial, security and climatic circumstances. The reaction of our people and our institutions was very strong and shows our democratic credentials are second to none.”