Police launch probe into Chetcuti Cauchi golden passport clients

Police have requested paperwork and case files of clients processed by citizenship law firm Chetcuti Cauchi

The Maltese police have launched a fact-finding probe into allegations of political influence in the sale of Malta’s golden passport, as claimed by a legal firm in a French undercover TV exposé.

Chetcuti Cauchi, a law firm which was the first company after concessionaires Henley & Partners to gain a licence to sell Maltese citizenship under the Individual Investor Programme, has, since the broadcast of M6’s Enquête Esclusive, been suspended from the IIP.

The company’s founding partner, Jean-Philippe Chetcuti, was filmed in the undercover sting boasting of his political connections to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the parliamentary secretary for citizenship, Julia Farrugia, as a way of being able to overcome problems related to an applicant’s criminal record.

Jean-Philippe Chetcuti (left) at the inauguration of his firm's offices with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Jean-Philippe Chetcuti (left) at the inauguration of his firm's offices with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Now the police have launched a probe into the allegations.

A highly-placed source said the police has requested paperwork and case files on all the clients which Chetcuti Cauchi had presented to the Malta IIP Agency as applicants for the gold passport.

“While the aim is to ascertain whether any undue influence was utilised in the conduct of business, the probe has yet to determine whether there is a criminal case to prosecute,” the source said.

Since the airing of the TV programme in September, both Chetcuti Cauchi’s two licences to promote the IIP have been suspended. A keynote address by Chetcuti was also struck off the scheduled programme at an international passport marketing conference held in Malta last week.

And the Chamber of Advocates has referred Chetcuti’s alleged breach of conduct to Commission for the Administration of Justice to investigate alleged breaches of the code of conduct. The Chamber of Advocates said that while it would conduct its own investigation into whether Chetcuti would be stripped of his membership with the Chamber, it would wait for the conclusions of the judicial watchdog’s committee of advocates.

Chetcuti has publicly declared he never promised to obtain “any illegal advantage” for his clients. “I deny that I promised to obtain any illegal advantage for our clients. I equally deny that I ever spoke to politicians to illegally intervene on our clients’ behalf,” Chetcuti said, adding that he would only be answering questions after any investigations are over.

He added that no client of his, whose application for a Maltese passport was rejected, has ever had the rejection overturned. “We have never accepted clients with a criminal record. In addition, none of our clients has ever had his or her citizenship revoked because of criminal convictions after citizenship was granted,” he said.

“We have no difficulty to open our doors to scrutiny by public institutions. Let them do all the work that the law obliges them to do. It does not worry us. The only thing I ask is that the review of our licence is carried out in the shortest time possible. The livelihoods of 140 families are at stake,” Chetcuti said.

In the French TV programme, Chetcuti spoke freely of his rapport with politicians.

“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 said. “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.”

Later, when the conversation turns to a problematic dossier – a client who may have criminal precedents – Chetcuti tells the journalist: “I tell the minister: ‘with more information, you will have a more complete view of the dossier’, and indeed, they do not need to give any reasons for the rejection of the dossier, but they can close an eye… and later, I can give them new information that would benefit the client.”

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