Updated | Case of address theft ‘nothing to do with IIP’ – Identity Malta

Nationalist MP says Identity Malta received reports of theft of addresses by IIP applicants applying for a Maltese residence permit card

PN MP Jason Azzopardi
PN MP Jason Azzopardi

An alleged case of theft of address had “absolutely nothing to do with the Individual Investor Programme”, a spokesperson for Identity Malta insisted this evening.

The spokesperson was reacting to claims by Nationalist MP Jaszon Azzopardi who raised reports of identity theft during the budgetary vote for the home affairs ministry.

According to Azzopardi, two residents of Swieqi and St Julian’s received a request from Identity Malta to collect the residence card of a Libyan citizen and another citizen from the Caucasus, who were not registered at their address. Azzopardi said that both Identity Malta and the Home Affairs Ministry had received reports of theft of addresses.

In a reaction, Identity Malta insisted the IIP uses the highest global level of due diligence.

Referring to the theft of an address in the St Julian’s area, Identity Malta confirmed it had received the report in August 2014.

“Immediate investigation showed that the situation arose because of a shortcoming in the procedure which has been in place for a number of years regarding the issue of residence,” the agency said.

“Following this investigation, Identity Malta took the necessary corrective action to change this procedure which has been in place for a number of years. Following these changes, residence cards are issued only if the applicant submits an original copy of the lease agreement for the property indicated as residence.”

Identity Malta said that the person lodging the complaint was informed of the action taken “and thanked Identity Malta for giving attention” to the complaint in a proper manner.

“The same person also said that he had reported another case on the same address which involved social benefit fraud in 2012,” it added.

Azzopardi insisted that “the abuse” was down to a lax due diligence on the part of Identity Malta, the agency that is regulating the Individual Investor Programme, the sale of Maltese citizenship.

“These people have stolen Maltese addresses. What has the ministry done about these reports? Is this the due diligence the Prime Minister boasts so much about? Is this how the European Commission is being take for ride about the one-year residence requirement?”

Turning to the Citizenship Department, Azzopardi claimed that “corruption” was the order of the day. He alleged that Malta’s ambassador to China was exercising pressure on the immigration police to issue visas to Chinese individuals against the recommendation of the police.

He said that Schenghen visas were being issued “like hot cakes” while residence permits were being issued without a verification of street address taking place.

A period of residency in Malta for at least a year is required for applicants who want to obtain Maltese passports.

But according to Azzopardi, in two separate cases, residence permits were issued even though the applicants did not have a Maltese address. The cases, he said, involved a Russian and a man from the Gulf.

He asked whether it was true that Identity Malta was advising applicants to sign up as members of a sailing club or a fitness club as proof of residency.

The onus of proving Maltese residence is on the applicant, but residence can be acquired by obtaining e-residence (a status common to all foreign residents in Malta) or enrolment in the Global Residence Programme, having a functional residence, as well as being the member of social clubs, philanthropic initiatives, engaging with professional bodies.

The Sheehan shooting case

Azzopardi said the Minister should come clean on who authorized or recommended that his escort – police constable Paul Sheehan – should carry a firearm and asked which of the other Cabinet members had armed security forces.

He raised a series of questions, including how and when was Mallia informed of the case; who authorized the original ministerial statement claiming that warning shots had been fired in the air and who had ordered for the Scotsman's car to be loaded on the police low-loader.

“How did Mallia inform the Prime Minister of what had happened…or had the Prime Minister already been informed?”

Azzopardi said Mallia should explain why no breathalyser test was carried out on Sheehan.

He said that the impression among the people was that government forces worked to cover up the incident.

‘Annus horribilis for AFM’

Quoting Alexander Pope, Azzopardi said that “he who tells a lie…must be forced to invent 20 more to maintain that one”.

Opening his speech by shifting his attention on to the controversies surrounding the Home Affairs Minister, Azzopardi went on to list a long list of cases – ranging from the Ombudsman’s judicial protest to the pending publication of two inquiries into police work, among others.

He quipped that Mallia’s “wish” for his name to go down in history was coming true.

“Never had we such an annus horribilis for the Armed Forces of Malta. The AFM has no strategic direction and decisions are influenced by partisan politics,” he said.

Dubbing the ministry as a “special one”, Azzopardi said the ministry’s portfolio “didn’t make sense, created to satisfy the wishes and ego of the minister and of his chief of staff”, Silvio Scerri.

“How can we otherwise explain that broadcasting, so close to the chief of staff’s heart, were placed under the same ministry responsible of the AFM, the police, the civil protection department and the Security Services?”

The shadow home affairs minister questioned what was government’s defence policy, arguing that the government had no vision for the army.

According to Azzopardi, the AFM’s complaints board was “another cover-up” to grant promotions to soldiers “close to the ministry”.

“This government was elected on the solemn promise of meritocracy and transparency. Yet, this is a ministry that has refused to provide the Ombudsman with the necessary information who is investigating complaints raised by soldiers,” he said.

Azzopardi accused the AFM of further vindictiveness after a number of officers transferred to the detention services were relinquished of their appointment. He said, that that standards of training suffered a blow, while courses were being shortened. “Students complain that training courses are disorganized,” he said, adding that the government was using army officers as police officers.

Taking the floor, Nationalist MP Francis Zammit Dimech said that the national TV station was being turned into “One TV 2” questioning why PBS should be holding live broadcasting links from St George’s Square to report the government-that-listens debates.

On her part, Claudette Buttigieg raised a number of questions on how the budgetary allocation for the ministry will be distributed to finance the upgrading of police stations to cater for the reporting of domestic violence, the detention centres and the national detention policy.

Buttigieg said more honesty was required if the government and opposition were to work together and seek consensus on migration.