The Nationalist Party has officially called for the immediate suspension of the Individual Investor Programme sale-of-citizenship scheme in the wake of an undercover sting investigation by a French TV show into one of the IIP’s legal agents.
“This scandal that was recently exposed by the international press is yet more confirmation that this is the most corrupt government in our country’s history,” PN MP Karol Aquilina said in a statement. “The government’s decision to suspend the license of the agent concerned is too little, too late. The damage to our country’s reputation has already been dealt and it doesn’t seem as though it will stop anytime soon.”
“In light of this latest scandal, the PN is requesting the immediate suspension of the IIP scheme and the launch of an inquiry into the sale of every Maltese passport that passed through the hands of [Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates] after this law firm was caught boasting about its links and influence it enjoys with the Prime Minister and other Labour ministers.”
Posing as a legal representative of African clients who were interested in purchasing Maltese citizenship, a journalist from French TV programme Enquête Exclusive visited the Valletta offices of Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates to discuss the way forward.
The lawyer’s identity was concealed but it is believed to be Jean-Philippe Chetcuti, a partner of the law firm and a specialist in citizenship and residency programmes.
He could be heard boasting that he was childhood friends with Joseph Muscat and that his wife, also a partner in the firm, is childhood friends with parliamentary secretary for reforms and citizenship Julia Farrugia Portelli.
Muscat and Farrugia Portelli both distanced themselves from suggestions of chumminess, insisting that their relationship with the lawyers doesn’t extend beyond their childhood days.
At one point in the conversation, the journalist tested the lawyer by warning that one of his ‘clients’ interested in purchasing Maltese citizenship may have a criminal record.
The lawyer responded that the authorities can reject applications without giving a reason but they can also “close an eye” and that he could also provide them with further information that would benefit the client.
The Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency (MIIPA) has since suspended Chetcuti Cauchi’s license to act as an IIP agent, has put all pending applications on hold and has asked the IIP regulator to review all the files it has submitted so far.
“Claims that ‘eyes are closed’ at any stage of the MIIP process are completely unfounded,” the government said in a statement.