The Malta Independent 28 June 2022, Tuesday

Disappointing you didn’t mention Egrant, Finance Minister tells FT regarding passports story

Sunday, 19 August 2018, 12:30 Last update: about 5 years ago

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has taken the Financial Times to task for having failed to mention the conclusions of the Egrant inquiry in an article the newspaper published about an upcoming European Union crackdown on the sale of citizenships.

The article cites concern about Maltese passports for Russians ahead of a push against money laundering, with EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova saying that “citizenship for sale” schemes in eight member states, including Malta, will come under tougher scrutiny in the near future.

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Apart from insisting that Malta enforces a rigorous application process for all citizenship candidates and boasts a high rejection, Scicluna criticises the Financial Times for linking the citizenship programme to “high-profile money-laundering scandals involving banks”.

The Minister says he finds the comment “puzzling” and goes on to cite the “recently concluded magisterial investigation of the most serious allegation reported in various international newspapers, including the Financial Times, related to Pilatus Bank and the Prime Minister’s wife, found not only that the allegation was unfounded but, worse, that it was based on forged documentation, false signatures and false witnesses.

“This conclusion was reached after a 15-month extensive investigation based on 500 witnesses and various international forensic experts and it is disappointing that your story made no reference to it.”

Frankly, it is the Minister’s response that is ‘puzzling’. Scicluna appears to have forgotten that there were two Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports that actually made their way to the police, but were never acted upon.

One dealt specifically with Pilatus Bank and the other specifically with the selling of passports.

In his correspondence, Scicluna insists that: “It is also a transparent process, publishing the names of all successful applicants and has done so right since the programme began in 2014.”

Here, again, Scicluna seeks to gloss over the way in which Malta seeks to conceal the names of new citizens by publishing the list of new citizens – upon which the European Commission had insisted and which Malta had at first initially refused to do – in alphabetical order using the new citizens’ first names instead of their surnames.

At the end of 2013, when the programme had been first proposed, one of the main bones of contention had been the government’s insistence on not publishing the names of those who had purchased their citizenships – in other words it had insisted on keeping the names of the people purchasing Maltese citizenship a state secret.

Each list of new Maltese citizens published carries their names in alphabetical order in accordance with their first names. But this anomaly is not down to a clerical error: it is quite intentional and can be traced back to Malta’s haggling with the European Commission over the passports-for-cash scheme. This is because those who become naturalised Maltese citizens usually do so individually, while those purchasing their citizenships tend to do so for their whole family, which means listing them by surnames would make identifying passport buyers all the easier.

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