Magistrate asks Advocates’ chamber to investigate Chetcuti Cauchi on ethics breach

Court asks Chamber of Advocates to investigate lawyer Jean Philippe Chetcuti of Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates for alleged breach of ethics exposed in a story over passport sale

A magistrate has invited the Chamber of Advocates to launch an investigation into lawyer Jean Philippe Chetcuti, of Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates, for an alleged breach of ethics exposed in a story over passport sales.

Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo brought the issue to the attention of the Chamber in a decree handed down today following a request for a magisterial inquiry tabled by Manuel Delia, on behalf of the NGO Repubblika.

The decree comes after Repubblika filed a report directly to the duty magistrate, following footage broadcast by a French TV news programme, showing Chetcuti boasting of his government connections to a potential passport buyer.

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Malta’s Individual Investor Programme Agency – which grants Maltese citizenship in return for a substantial €1.15 million cash-and-property investment – has suspended the law firm’s licence after the explosive expose’ rocked the island.

The magistrate will be holding a sitting to hear Delia’s testimony next week.

The magistrate noted that Chetcuti, who also exercises the profession of advocate, could not reveal or be asked about the information given to him by his clients without their consent. This was an absolute privilege given by the law, said the court, quoting the European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence.

But the court also observed that there were two limited liability companies – Chetcuti Cauchi Advisors Ltd and Chetcuti Cauchi Consulting Ltd, in which Chetcuti was not only a shareholder but also a director. “The court accentuates the fact that lawyer Jean Chetcuti appears to be a director of two companies, which is contrary to the Code of Ethics for lawyers.”

The Code of Ethics provides that “advocates shall not by themselves or with any other person set up, operate, actively participate in or control any business, which offers any of the following services: a) advocacy before any court, tribunal or inquiry; b) acting as executor; c) drafting any contract, including the memorandum and articles of association of companies; d) drafting any will; e) giving legal advice; f) drafting legal documents other than those comprised in the above paragraphs; g) any other activity reserved to advocates by law or usually performed by advocates.”

Chetcuti Cauchi has since been suspended from the Individual Investor Programme pending an inquiry into the claims that the company could influence ministerial oversight on citizenship.