After meeting on a school bus all those years ago, Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli made sure to push Chetcuti Cauchi under it, after claiming she had no idea the passport-agent would use Castille in a promotional video she starred in.
“I found out later that the agent filmed inside Castille. I don’t agree with it, it was an administrative error. I was not part of it, I was not even consulted.”
The claim seems puzzling, especially given that Farrugia Portelli, the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) CEO, and Malta Residency Visa Agency CEO provided a stellar backdrop in the video for the now-suspended passport seller at the centre of an IIP scandal.
Speaking on XTRA, Farrugia Portelli claimed that the iconic halls of Castille were only used in the advert because there was “scaffolding” outside the building and more “scaffolding” inside her office.
“Like with every investment that is promoting what Malta is offering, I give interviews, this time the interview was in Castille,” she said.
Farrugia Portelli was taken to task on the scandal by MP Karol Aquilina, who repeatedly questioned why she did not file a report with the police or request a magisterial inquiry, given that there is enough evidence to suggest a criminal offence took place.
“If you want after this interview we can go down to the police together and then after we can go to the courts and request an inquiry be opened,” Aquilina said.
Unfortunately, while Farrugia Portelli she had “no problem with an investigation”, she never replied to Aquilina’s repeated requests, instead saying that the police and politicians should be kept separate.
Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates is at the centre of a scandal involving a French TV show’s undercover footage, which shows lawyers boasting about their ministerial connections, namely with Farrugia Portelli and Joseph Muscat, and how authorities would “close an eye” to buyers with a criminal record.
Farrugia Portelli laid into the journalists, lamenting how the government forked out thousands of euros for their accommodation in Malta, only for them to never ask about the claim.
On the IIP scheme itself, Farrugia Portelli criticised people who refer to it as a sale of citizenship, insisting it was an investor programme, despite the financial requirements to acquire a Maltese passport.
She dismissed surveys showing that the majority of people were against the scheme, instead saying the fault was with asking respondents what they thought about the “sale of citizenship”.
Aquilina, who repeated that the PN’s position was against IIP (even though some of its own members are agents), was steadfast in his opposition to the scheme, which he said trivialises something which should be earned through a proper bond with a nation to a simple check.
In defending the program, Farrugia Portelli pointed to the positive aspects of the fund, which has gone towards Putting Cares.