The passport scheme, formally referred to as the Individual Investor Programme has been a key driver for Malta’s local economy. Ever since its introduction, Malta’s property prices and overall cost of living have increased remarkably, reflecting a strong economic boom.
It was recently announced that the Individual Investor Programme suspended the licence of one of the leading sale of passport firms. This firm, one of the most successful passport agents in Malta had their licence Suspended due to one of its representatives boasting about his ties with the Prime Minister and also the parliamentary secretary for citizenship, in a bid to sell the Maltese passport to seemingly African clients. The agent was exposed because an investigation was taking place and the people on the receiving end were not potential clients but investigators, who were secretly recording the encounter to air on a French news programme. The interview was exposed in foreign media, leading to yet another hit to Malta’s reputation.
The law firm in question was one of the first agents to be allowed to act as a passport agent.
One of the representatives of the company stated that the Minister for Justice Owen Bonnici, used to work with the firm and went on to say that Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia is a childhood friend of his wife, emphasising on the importance of having such contacts here in Malta.
He also emphasised that he was at school with the Prime Minister, where his father used to drive them both together. He maintains that he still is well connected with the Prime Minister where they both attend each other’s parties.
The former Member of Parliament, Arnold Cassola has enquired to the Standards Commissioner to investigate these claims. He also goes on to make reference to a particular part of the programme which involved the son of the late Hugo Chetcuti, where he complains about one of his competitor’s concessions at St. George’s Beach. He was interpreted as being annoyed that one of his competitors was allowed to have establishments running there. He is also filmed as saying that whilst he was having dinner with Economy Minister Chris Cardona, said Minister had texted Konrad Mizzi, with the tone of the message being that help should be given to the Chetcuti family. Yet again, another case which clearly points to prominent businessmen piling the pressure on local politicians.
Cassola was joined by other Members of Parliament who asked the Police Commissioner to investigate these claims.