Identity Malta not giving Electoral Commissioner regular citizenship updates

Electoral Commissioner Joseph Church wrote to Identity Malta executive chairman Joseph Vella Bonnici that the agency was not providing his office with monthly lists of registered citizens and naturalised citizens

The executive chairman of Identity Malta, the government agency that handles identity management and citizenship applications, has been called to attention to his duties by the Electoral Commissioner, whose office is finding it difficult to reconcile voters’ lists with the names of naturalised citizens.

Electoral Commissioner Joseph Church wrote to Joseph Vella Bonnici that Identity Malta, which is also responsible for the Individual Investor Programme that sells Maltese citizenship for €650,000, was not providing his office with monthly lists of registered citizens and naturalised citizens.

“It is of utmost importance that such lists are submitted on a regular basis in conformity with provisions of the law,” Church wrote earlier this week. “The last monthly lists supplied to this office were for August 2014 (registration) and for December 2014 (naturalisation).

According to the electoral law, Identity Malta is responsible to forward the Electoral Commission with a list containing the name, surname and ID number of any person granted citizenship within the first five days of each month.

The Electoral Commission is already in hot water for having accepted applications for the issuing of voting documents to naturalised citizens who acquired their passport through the IIP: most of these applicants have never spent six months resident in Malta, as required by the electoral law. That automatically excludes them from having a voting document.

The Maltese courts rebuked the Commission for rendering constitutional requisites “useless” when it disregarded any verification of the applications by IIP citizens to vote.

In the first decision a court has taken on one of 91 disputed IIP beneficiaries who were placed on the electoral register, the court revoked the right of Aleksandr Olegovich Zaikin to vote.

The PN has filed 91 cases against the Electoral Commission, in order to delete new citizens who acquired their passports under the IIP. The PN discovered that the individuals were added to the electoral register without having spent a minimum of six months in Malta over the past 18 months before the publication of the register.

It appears that representatives for the IIP citizens have ticked ‘yes’ when asked whether they are ‘aged over 16 and always have been a resident of Malta’.

But the Electoral Commission has failed to verify whether they even satisfy residence requirements to be able to vote.

The Maltese Citizenship Act, amended since the introduction of the IIP, no longer binds the government to publish the names of all naturalised citizens every three months in the Government Gazette.

That important clause, which guaranteed some form of transparency on citizenship, was plainly expunged by a new clause setting up the regulator of the IIP. 

Instead a legal notice setting down the rules for the IIP says the minister has to publish an annual list of all those granted Maltese citizenship by registration or naturalization, including those persons who were granted Maltese citizenship under the programme.

Anonymity for IIP applicants was an important condition laid down by citizenship concessionaires Henley & Partners, something that was vigorously opposed by the Opposition. When government amended the citizenship laws in 2013, it totally removed the clause that mandated the publication of naturalised citizens; replacing it with the clause appointing a regulator, who compiles an annual report on the IIP without including any personal data of applicants.

Adding insult to injury, the government’s first list of citizens published after the IIP was launched listed the names in alphabetical order, and not the surnames, making it difficult to fish out specific names and families who applied for the IIP citizenship.