Although there is a lack of agreement between the Government and the Opposition about the Citizenship by Investment programme, they have reached a political consensus that the names of the people who obtain citizenship should be published. This emerged during the programme Dissett which discussed the report by the regulator of the programme as well as another report about the programme which is being prepared by the European Commission. Malta’s programme is now halfway through its quota of 1,800 applicants.
Both sides disagreed with the recommendation made by the regulator that the names of those who obtain citizenship should not be published in the Government Gazette.
Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli, and Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina gave their reactions during Dissett.
Julia Farrugia Portelli said, “We felt that the names should be published, that was the decision we took and which we still believe in, and we will continue to adhere to the decision taken.”
Karol Aquilina said, “we are insisting that these names should be public for there to be effective scrutiny of people who are buying Maltese citizenship.”
Stephanie Bonello, a lawyer in the field, however, reiterated the position of agents such as herself that the applicant asks for confidentiality.
Dr Bonello said, “once your name is published you are subject to scrutiny not only by the media but potentially even by your competitors. Many applicants wish their privacy to be protected in this way.”
The Chief Executive of the Programme, Jonathan Cardona said that he does not feel that in January, when the EC issues its report about these programmes, that it will put a stop to them. He said that Malta is urging the Commission to enforce a common standard of scrutiny of the applicants.
Jonathan Cardona said, “we are pushing for this because we had four applicants whose application we turned down, who were then accepted by another country. So what we are saying is why did they not pass through our vetting process but passed through that of another country so easily? In other words, we ourselves are lobbying the EC to share the information which we would have collected.”
Mr Cardona indicated that in the revised programme, Malta can raise the price of its citizenship. He mentioned that thanks to this programme, various people have obtained citizenship and ended up making a substantial investment in Malta in various sectors.
Economist Malcolm Bray explained that the programme is contributing 1% to the Gross Domestic Product.
“It is a very advantageous and innovative product because it gives the Government another source of revenue.”
Mr Bray is of the belief that international criticism of the programme in Malta was built on wrong perceptions or because of another agenda.