A former partner at the firm embroiled in a probe into kickbacks on passport sales has been appointed to chair the agency that runs the sale of Maltese passports to rich foreigners.

Former Nexia BT partner Anita Aloisio, who has not been implicated in any wrongdoing, was appointed to chair the Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency (MIIPA) on September 15, according to the Government Gazette.

The new MIIPA chair was a Nexia BT partner between 2014 and 2017, at a time when the firm was secretly setting up Panama companies for former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and former energy and tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.

Schembri, as well as Aloisio’s former partners Brian Tonna, Karl Cini and Manuel Castagna, were arrested and hit with an asset freeze last week as part of a police investigation into whether the former OPM chief of staff took a €100,000 kickback on passport sales from Tonna.

They were released from arrest after a day.

The 2016 Panama Papers leak revealed how Tonna was using a company he owned in the British Virgin Islands to receive referral fees from passport sales by BT International, his local firm.

There’s no conflict of interest

The alleged kickback to Schembri was paid out from the company in the BVI.

Aloisio would not be drawn in to commenting about Tonna’s passport sales practices or whether she was aware of the political clients brought in to Nexia BT by her former partners, when contacted by Times of Malta.

She said her role in Nexia BT was solely to set up and lead the advisory practice, which was the arm that offered local business advisory services.

Asked why she left Nexia BT in 2017, Aloisio said she decided to progress in her career as a sole practitioner and moved on to open up her own firm. The arrests last week led to the suspension of Nexia BT’s licence.

Aloisio dismissed having a conflict of interest in her new role, saying it had been more than three years since she worked at the firm.

“You may wish to note that the functions of the board are related to the general strategy of the agency and the board does not get involved in liaison with the accredited agents and/or applicants, nor does it approve or reject any individual applications,” she said.

The government recently announced a revamp of the passport sales scheme, including stricter residency provisions.

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