Agents may be placing less wealthy partner as passport scheme applicant – IIP watchdog

Enquête exclusive

The Office of the Regulator of the Individual Investors’ Programme has observed that while the main applicant are usually those who are economically the wealthiest of the group, there have been a number of instances in which the less wealthy spouse was appointed as the main applicant. It explained that in some of these instances, damning information about the wealthier dependent was revealed which led to the application being either refused or withdrawn as soon as questions were asked.

Updated: Maltese IIP agents filmed boasting about having Government relations

The observation is one of fourteen observations made by the cash for passport scheme watchdog in a report drawn up following an investigation request into the IIP agents caught on camera boasting of their warm ties to the government.

Chetcuti Cauchi head denies, ‘allegations and insinuations’

The agents’ licence was subsequently suspended. The report signed by the Regulator Carmel De Gabriele states that ‘There was no indication of collusion between the Agent and the responsible Minister (or with the Agency) or that the former, at any point, since the start of the programme had received any preferential treatment.’

Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo recently ordered a criminal inquiry following a request by rule of law NGO Repubblika, last week.

In its recommendations, the IIP watchdog said that in accordance to its observations, ‘some of the agents might be resorting to the tactic of placing the less wealthy partner as main applicant’. The watchdog recommended that the MIIPA accepts only the more economically wealthy partner (if this is clear) as the main applicant. It added, that while this should in theory irrelevant since due diligence checks are carried out, the fact that sometimes a partner of limited economic means should enter into a number of commitments makes a mockery of the whole process.

The report observed, that unlike the claim made by the IIP agents and which was caught on camera, the firm’s success rate was not 100%. The Office of the Regulator of IIP said that taking into consideration only the applications on which a decision was taken the refusal rate in the case of Chetcuti Cauchi advisor is 10% whilst, if one were to include those withdrawn, the percentage of non-approvals goes up to 16%. The watchdog observed that if one were to include also the cases which were rejected/withdrawn at pre-application stage the percentage of non-approvals would go further up to 20%.

‘Law firm had 19% of applications refused, not 100% success rate’ – government

Cash for passport scheme continues to tarnish the country’s reputation – PN

Partit Nazzjonalista said that the report which was drawn up by the regulator continues to confirm that the cash-for-passport scheme continues to tarnish Malta’s reputation. The PN reiterated that it firmly remains against the scheme, adding that it has ruined the country’s reputation since its inception.

In a statement signed by Opposition spokesperson for Citizenship Karol Aquilina observed that the regulator did not deny any of the information revealed by the French journalists about the law firm in question. The agents were caught boasting of having ties to the Prime Minister, to the junior minister in charge of the programme and to the Justice Minister. Aquilina added that this amounts to trading in influence.

Partit Nazzjonalista said that the report does not deny that the law firm received preferential treatment, pointing out that the law firm in question used the Office of the Prime Minister to film its promotional material and that Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship had appeared on the video.

The Opposition further observed that the IIP watchdog does not deny that a number of individuals who acquired Maltese citizenship are facing serious charges of fraud, money laundering, evasion of taxes and tariffs, among others.