Malta IIP agency suspends licence of passport agent who bragged about connections to ministers

The Individual Investor Programme announced on its website that it has suspended the licence of Chetcuti Cauchi Advisors

Malta’s citizenship by investment agency has suspended the license of one of the most successful passport agents after one of its representatives was caught boasting of his friendly relations with both the Prime Minister and the parliamentary secretary for citizenship, in a pitch to sell Maltese passport to African clients.

The Individual Investor Programme Agency suspended the licences of the Chetcuti Cauchi law firm, who were one of the first agents to be granted authorisation to sell Maltese citizenship.

The suspension on Monday came after one of the firm’s representatives was secretly recorded by a French news programme carefreely explaining that the agency had excellent relations with members of the Maltese government.

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The comments were made to a journalist from French TV channel M6, who was posing as a representative of African clients seeking a Maltese passport, sold under the IIP for some €1.15 million in cash, property and government stocks.

“The [former] minister Owen Bonnici was a lawyer here,” says one of the representatives of the Chetcuti Cauchi firm, as a company logo later reveals the identity of the company.

“Julia Farrugia, the parliamentary secretary in charge of the programme, is a childhood friend of my wife. It’s good to have a wife with similar friends,” the lawyer says jovially.

“It’s a small island… I was at school with the prime minister – my father drove us to school and we would be invited to each other’s parties. We understand each other.”

The programme, Enquête Exclusive, aired yesterday, with Malta’s IIP Agency announcing on its website today that it had suspended the licences of Chetcuti Cauchi Advisors Ltd, holders of licences IIP 001 and IIP 124, until further notice.

Arnold Cassola requests Standards Commissioner to investigate claims

Former MEP candidate Arnold Cassola has asked the Commissioner for Standards to investigate the claims which emerged from the programme.

Cassola made reference to a segment of the programme where the son of the late Paceville entrepreneur Hugo Chetcuti, Luke, is filmed speaking to a hotel manager where he complains about a competitor’s beach concession on St George’s Beach.

Chetcuti, who was being filmed discreetly, said he was annoyed at one of his competitor’s establishments on the beach.

He went on to say that, while having dinner with Economy Minister Chris Cardona and discussing this issue, Cardona had texted Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi saying that they “must help the Chetcuti family.”

In his letter to the Standards Commissioner, Cassola said “the gravity of Chetcuti’s statement is enormous.”

“He is implying what a lot of the Maltese suspect: that a minister (in this case, Chris Cardona), is intervening with another minister (Konrad Mizzi) to do a favour for Chetcuti an make the necessary arrangements for space on [St George’s] beach, because the [Chetcuti] family had always helped us - meaning Labour Party politicians,” Cassola said.

"To make matters worse, according to Chetcuti - instead of chastising Cardona and reporting him to you, the Police Commissioner - Mizzi said that the bay was small but he would see if he could enlarge it to serve Chetcuti," he underlined.

 

Cassola went on to list a number of “elements showing bad and unethical behaviour, implied by Chetcuti”, including: a businessman trying to influence a minister (Cardona) to be favoured, the minister accepting to be influenced, the minister implicating another minister (Mizzi), the motivation itself being nepotistic, minister Mizzi not refusing but on the contrary showing he was willing to accommodate the businessman, and Mizzi being ready to explore if he can enlarge the bay using tax payers' money.

 

Independent MPs ask Police Commissioner to investigate

Independent MPs Godfrey and Marlene Farrugia have asked the Police Commissioner to investigate the claims.

"In light of what was aired during a news programme episode of Enquête Exclusive, where Malta was referred to as 'Corruption Paradise', we are asking you to investigate what was being implied with regards to the processes and partnering of the IIP," they said in a letter addressed the Police Commissioner, the chairperson on the Permanent Committee against Corruption and the Auditor General. 

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