Over 74,000 visas to Libyans by Maltese embassy since 2011

Police widen investigation over visa scam that uses companies with false stocks as vehicle to obtain long-term residency

Almost 75,000 visas have been issued by the Maltese embassy in Libya since 2011, figures obtained by MaltaToday show.

Peaking at 44,789 requests and 37,486 visas issued, 2013 alone saw half of all visas issued in the past four years.

It now transpires that the police have widened investigations over a suspected visa scam pertaining to Libyan nationals and their sponsors in Malta, following the arrest of auditor Joe Sammut. 

Police are also looking into the visas that have been issued since 2011. According to sources, the investigation is “wider than originally thought”. 

Ever since Libya plunged into civil war in 2011, ousting dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the country has been left in a shambles, with rival governments seated in Tripoli and in Tobruk.

But during this time, Libyan nationals seeking a way out of their war-torn country travelled to Malta legally on the strength of a travel visa: since 2011, a total of 91,331 requests were made and 74,958 visas issued.

While the figures differ significantly from one year to the next, the rate of approval also changed: in 2011, 4,923 (79% of the total) requests were acceded to; in 2012, 14,626 (92%) visas were issued; in 2013, a record 37,486 (84%) visas were issued, and in 2014 a total of 16,333 (72%) visas were issued.

So far in 2015, 1,592 visas – 99% of total requests – have been issued.

MaltaToday understands that although issued by the Maltese embassy in Tripoli, not all visa recipients could necessarily be Libyan – they could be also nationals from other countries seeking a hassle-free entry into the borderless, European Schengen area. 

MaltaToday has in the past reported how the Tripoli embassy would issue up to 300 visas to Malta each day, leading to investigations – so far unsuccessful – into whether Malta’s consul in Tripoli, Marisa Farrugia, was aware of any irregularities. Farrugia had been recalled back to Malta for urgent police questioning over documented evidence of extensive fraud at the Maltese embassy.

At the time, a number of Maltese companies had claimed that their business letterheads were being falsified for recommendations and the official invitations used for the issuing of a visa for Libyan businessmen.

The information also reveals that four individuals were listed as recommenders a total of 10,394 times, making them the four most ‘popular’ main recommenders.

The four are GRTU council member Mario Debono, auditor Joe Sammut, a certain Joanna Debono, and D Holdings, a company owned by Iuris Fiduciary Ltd.

D Holdings was listed as a recommender 1,245 times between 2012 and 2014; 983 visas were issued. Joanna Debono appeared as a main recommender on 2,204 visa requests between 2011 and 2015, of which 1,826 visas were issued.

On the other hand, Debono and Sammut appeared as main recommenders 3,531 and 3,414 times respectively of which 3,055 and 2,512 visas were issued.

However, contacted by MaltaToday, Mario Debono explained that he was suspicious about the data concerning him.

“I don’t recall ever recommending over 2,000 visa applications in 2013. I am aware that my company letterheads were falsified by Libyan nationals, and that is something that I could not stop.”

Debono said he had been questioned by police over his visa requests, and that he explained to them that his company letterheads had been falsified. “We do a lot of business in Libya and this kind of thing is bound to happen.”

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