At least 58 individuals, hailing from various countries, have been granted Maltese citizenship under the controversial Individual Investor Programme even though they failed to provide their own birth certificate, Opposition MP Karol Aquilina said in Parliament.
Aquilina was speaking during debate on a bill which would amend the Maltese Citizenship Act, with the aim of bringing about the successor to the IIP, which will be scrapped come September.
He cited the 58 cases of applicants who failed to provide birth certificates as an indication that the much-touted due diligence linked to the programme was insufficient.
But Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat dismissed the argument, pointing out that there were other methods to identify applicants. Additionally, he pointed out, birth certificates were not made available in a number of countries in the past, specifically citing Saudi Arabia and a number of Chinese regions as an example.
Naturalisation for ‘exceptional services’ to Malta
As Aquilina pointed out, the bill is scant on details about the new scheme: much of what Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Alex Muscat mentioned as he explained the programme is not reflected in it.
He argued that it simply removed references to the IIP, introducing “a lot of phrases that ultimately mean nothing,” in their stead.
The law empowers the minister responsible for citizenship to naturalise people who have rendered “exceptional services” to Malta.
“For the purposes of this paragraph ‘exceptional’ means unusually excellent or manifestly superior at a local level, and refers primarily to contributions by scientists, researchers, athletes, sports people, artists, cultural performers, investors and entrepreneurs,” the law reads.
Aquilina emphasised that the Opposition agreed with this in principle, having no objection to honouring notable individuals who have directly contributed to Malta by granting them citizenship.
But he insisted that the government’s claim that it would “stop selling citizenship,” was “one of the biggest lies ever said in Parliament.”
Aquilina insists for more transparency
The MP argued that even if the Opposition disagreed with the law, it had a duty to improve it where possible.
Consequently, he said he would make a number of concrete proposals, including that those who acquire citizenship by investment should be explicitly named.
At present, the names of all individuals granted Maltese citizenship – irrespective of how this citizenship is obtained – are published together in the Government Gazette: sorted by their first names, not their surnames.
“Those who acquire citizenship should not be embarrassed about becoming Maltese,” the MP maintained. “In my opinion, objectively, there should be no problem with naming them, for the government and for applicants alike.”
Aquilina also proposed introducing a system similar to marriage banns, suggesting that the name of prospective citizens is made public , so that anyone may raise any objections they might have before they are granted citizenship.