Justice Minister and Opposition Leader spar over IIP scheme

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said that despite the Opposition's criticisms of the Individual Investors Programme, it had never collectively come out against the scheme 

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and Opposition Leader Adrian Delia
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and Opposition Leader Adrian Delia

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and Opposition Leader Adrian Delia clashed in Parliament on Tuesday over the Individual Investors Programme.

"Your predecessor Simon Busuttil criticised the government of corruption but not once did he come out against the IIP scheme. If it bothers you so much, I would suggest you all come out against it," Bonnici told Opposition Leader Adrian Delia.

Delia asked Bonnici in Parliament on Tuesday whether the government was weighing the damage to Malta's reputation against the IIP scheme, criticising the scheme as a mere outright sale rather than an investment.

"You're wrong when you say that this is an outright sale. Sale is when a price, the object and the people involved are predetermined. This isn't that because it isn't a matter of paying money and that's that. The European Commission said in its analysis of the scheme that Malta has a strong system of due dilligence in place," Bonnici said.

He challenged Delia to stop "confusing" the electorate and for the Opposition to either come out in favour or against the IIP scheme and to confirm whether the Nationalist Party had done a u-turn on this issue since the time of Simon Busuttil's leadership.

The IIP scheme came under fire once more after one of its principal agents, Chetcuti Cauchi Advisors, had its license suspended after a French sting operation revealed how the company's director, Jean-Philippe Chetcuti, boasted of his government connections and said he could guarantee a passport sale despite a potential client's criminal record.

Bonnici continued to lambast the Opposition leader by referring to his Twitter slip-up on Monday evening when Delia wrote that an "independent magisterial inquiry" into Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination was needed in the wake of news reports on possible suspects behind her murder.

READ MORE: Adrian Delia’s Twitter slip earns him Labour’s ridicule

"Either the Opposition Leader doesn't know that an independent magisterial inquiry has been going on since the assassination took place or he is saying that he does not believe that magistrate Neville Camilleri is independent," Bonnici said.

In his turn to respond, Delia said that Bonnici hadn't replied to his question in the nine minutes that Bonnici held the conversational floor. 

"You didn't answer my question and didn't say whether the government thought about whether the dirty passport scheme has been weighed against Malta's reputational damage," Delia said.

Bonnici reiterated that if the IIP scheme fundamentally bothered the Opposition, it should declare its resistance to the scheme, something, he said, that it had never done. 

"You know what damages our reputation? Not the programmes, not the investments, but whoever is abroad slinging mud on our country and showering it with destructive criticism," he concluded.

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