No indication of any ploy of understanding between legal firm Chetcuti Cauchi and PS Julia Farrugia Portelli – the Regulator
The Regulator of the Citizenship Investment Programme, Carmel Degabriele, has concluded there are no indications of any ploy of understanding between the legal firm Chetcuti Cauchi and the Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli following allegations that were made during an extensive service by a French television station regarding Malta’s Citizenship Investment Programme.
In his report following investigations Degabriele stated that in his understanding the allegations made by lawyer Chetcuti cast a bad light on the Citizenship Programme and also defamed the Prime Minister, the Minister for Justice and the Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship. He also made recommendations for the Citizenship Programme to continue to be improved.
The Government published the Regulator’s whole report after a request was made that investigations be carried out into the allegations made by the French television station. The investigation was requested on 23rd September when the IIP Licence held by the legal firm Chetcuti Cauchi was immediately suspended.
The Regulator investigated and concluded there are no indications of any understanding between the legal firm and the Parliamentary Secretary. The report also states that at no juncture had the firm Chetcuti Cauchi received any preferential treatment from the Government in the exercise of the Programme. The declaration made by lawyer Jean Chetcuti that the legal firm was the only Licence holder to have a 100% record of success was incorrect because 16% of their applications had been rejected.
In the 12-page report the Regulator said it had not resulted that the firm had forwarded the application of a person with a criminal record. Of all the applications forwarded by all the licenced agents there was only one application for a person with a criminal record; this was not presented by the Chetcuti Cauchi firm and was immediately rejected.
Degabriele said the investigations established that the allegations made during the television station’s programme were untruthful and Dr Chetcuti is liable to be charged with having disbursed misleading information, the reason for which only he knows. In the Regulator’s understanding the allegations made by lawyer Chetcuti placed the Citizenship Investment Programme in a bad light while also greatly defaming the Prime Minister, the Minister for Justice and the Parliamentary Secretary.
The Regulator forwarded a number of recommendations to improve the application process aimed at removing any doubts on the credibility of the application processing. He proposed that that the Programme licenced agents should invest in an informatics system to strengthen their own security and accountability among other matters, as well as to record any changes made to applications.
He also proposed legal changes in order to remove any legal loopholes so as to ensure that persons with a criminal record will never be enabled to achieve Maltese Citizenship. He further recommended the establishment of a network between those countries that operate in order for them to be able to exchange information. It was also proposed that to remove any doubts about the possibilities of a ploy or understanding between the Agency and the scheme’s agents, the role of the issuing or revocation of licences should be given to a third party so that an independent evaluation will be made of all agents and decide whether licences should be renewed or revoked.
In reaction to the report, the Nationalist Party’s Spokesperson, Karol Aquilina, once more requested the Citizenship Programme should be suspended because it is damaging Malta’s reputation. Dr Aquilina said the Regulator’s report did not deny that which was revealed by the French journalist that the legal firm involved in the sale of passports was caught boasting it had influential links with Government members. He said this amounts to the trading of influence.
Dr Aquilina further said the report also did not deny among other matters that the legal firm involved had been given preferential treatment by the Government through adverts that had been filmed in the Office of the Prime Minister and that some persons who had purchased citizenship are facing serious accusations of criminality including fraud and money laundering.
Meanwhile, a Labour Party statement said the Regulator’s report had negated the Nationalist Party’s allegations regarding the Citizenship Programme.
It said that contrary to the allegations made by PN spokespersons there was no proof of any political interference in the processing of IIP applications.
The statement quoted conclusions from the report including that no persons with criminal conducts had had their applications approved. It added that the Nationalist Party’s sole interest is that of destroying a programme that brings investment to Malta and that there are similar schemes in other countries.