With Malta’s sale-of-citizenship scheme under fire by the incoming European Commission, Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba has defended the programme by noting its proceeds are often spent on a good cause.
In a Facebook post, Agius Saliba criticised Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola for calling for an end to the Individual Investor Programme and other similar schemes across Europe during the recent grilling of EC vice-president designate for transparency Vera Jourova.
Jourova agreed with Metsola’s assessment and voiced her disappointment at the fact that the EU doesn’t have the legal competence to put an end to the scheme itself.
“Roberta Metsola could have asked her about so many things but she once again chose to attack Malta,” Agius Saliba said. “Once again, she urged the European Commission to immediately stop the Citizenship by Investment Scheme. She begged Europe to put an end to the social housing project and stop just causes like Bjorn Formosa’s [home for ALS patients] project which is being financed through these funds. How aren’t they ashamed to show their faces in public?”
In a reaction, Metsola said Agius Saliba must not have understood or listened to what she said.
“It is not surprising that he has been instructed to defend Henley & Partners at all costs, but to invoke the sick in a twisted attempt to defend the indefensible is a new low even for this publicity desperate representative of the Labour Party,” she said.
“Let’s be clear: Malta’s Government should not need to sell passports to look after our sick and our elderly. It is truly tragic to see Alex Agius Saliba suggest that.”
Proceeds from the Individual Investor Programme, some €544 million so far, are sent to the National Development and Social Fund, a kitty for social and infrastructural project.
Parliamentary secretary for citizenship Julia Farrugia Portelli recently said that over €90 million has been spent on funding social projects so far, such as the investment in new equipment at Mater Dei, the upgrade of health centres around Malta and the purchasing of apartments in London by Putting Cares for Maltese cancer patients.
She added that citizenship buyers have voluntary made around 625 donations, totalling some €4 million, to various NGOs.