Busuttil pledges to 'clean up' passport sale scheme, urges PM to debate Marlene Farrugia

Nationalist Party leader dismisses concerns that the party hadn’t costed its new electoral pledge to give a €10,000 grant to young Gozitan families, saying that 'the grant will be limited according to how much money we decide to allocate'

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil indicated that a future Nationalist government will, at least initially, maintain the sale-of-citizenship scheme.

Responding to questions from the press after a visit to MaltaPost, Busuttil said that a PN government will ensure that the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) is cleaned up in the wake of reports that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri accepted kickbacks from the sale of passports.

“The IIP was stained by Keith Schembri, and we must clean it up for the sake of Malta’s reputation. Then we’ll take it from there.”

When the Labour government introduced the IIP back in 2013, Busuttil came out strongly against it, describing the scheme as “obscene” and tantamount to slapping a price-tag on Maltese identity.

The PN leader also dismissed concerns that the party hasn’t costed its new electoral pledge to give a €10,000 grant to young Gozitan families who buy a house in Gozo and young Maltese families who want to resettle in Gozo.

“The grant will be limited according to how much money we decide to allocate to it, so if we allocate €1 million then we’ll be able to give out 100 grants.”

He said that he hasn’t yet decided how much money to allocate to the scheme, but said its budget could easily be adjusted annually according to the level of interest shown in it.  

‘Debate Marlene Farrugia’

Busuttil also urged Muscat to accept Partit Demokratiku leader Marlene Farrugia’s challenge for a public debate in the village square of Zurrieq.

“I think it’s a good idea, why not?” a bemused Busuttil said. “Seeing as they’re both contesting on the same district, why shouldn’t they debate in Zurrieq?”

Muscat said on Dissett on Wednesday that he will only engage in a one-on-one debate with the leader of the Opposition.

“If they decide that Marlene Farrugia is now the Opposition leader, then I will have no problem debating her,” he quipped.

He also urged Muscat to appear before the European Parliament’s Panama Papers committee, warning that Malta’s reputation is hanging in the balance.

The PANA committee invited Muscat to testify before it when he is in Strasbourg between 15 to 18 May.

Muscat responded that he will have no problem appearing before the MEPs, but only after the conclusion of a magisterial inquiry investigation reports that his wife owns the offshore Panama company Egrant. The inquiry is not expected to be published before the election.

“I hope that he accepts the PANA committee’s request, because our country’s reputation is at stake and the financial services sector cannot afford to have a Prime Minister with such a dark cloud of corruption hanging over him.”