Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Thursday forcefully denied that fugitive businessman Jho Low had been sold a Maltese passport. 

Mr Jho is reportedly on the run over his involvement in the 1MDB scandal, a Malaysian development fund that was looted by politicians. 

US prosecutors have alleged Mr Jho masterminded a scheme to siphon $4.5 billion from 1MDB. 

Reports emerged over the past week that Mr Jho bought several Mediterranean and Caribbean Islands passports to aid his flight from justice, including a Maltese one. 

Replying to questions by Times of Malta, Dr Muscat said Mr Jho was never given a Maltese passport.

“Totally untrue. I made verifications and he didn't even apply [for a passport]".

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat routinely tours the world to drum up passport sales during conferences organised by Henley & Partners, the company given the concession to sell Maltese passports. 

The name of people given Maltese citizenship is published annually in the Malta Government Gazette, but no distinction is made between those who bought their passport through the lucrative citizenship scheme.

Mr Jho's name does not appear anywhere in the Malta Government Gazette

Five Maltese passport buyers have been implicated in financial crimes over the past year. 

On Thursday, a magistrate gave the green light for an inquiry into a senior partner of a law firm whose licence to sell Maltese passports was suspended in the wake of revelations by a French television station.

Lawyer and passport agent Jean Philippe Chetcuti was secretly filmed boasting about his links with Dr Muscat, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and Julia Farrugia, the parliamentary secretary responsible for passport sales. 

Another inquiry started over two years ago is looking into an FIAU report about a €100,000 payment received by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff from his auditor Brian Tonna. 

The FIAU report linked the €100,000 payment to passport sales brokered by Mr Tonna. 

Both men deny wrongdoing. 

Last month, the Nationalist Party complained that the sale of Maltese passports continued to damage Malta’s reputation.

The PN called on the government to immediately suspend the Individual Investor Programme and sales of Maltese passports. 

A report by the European Commission said citizenship schemes like the one operated by Malta posed security, money-laundering and corruption risks. 

Malta’s scheme has no actual mechanisms to ensure that passport buyers actually lived on the island or formed a genuine link in other ways.

The Commission also noted how non-public bodies such as approved agents or the schemes concessionaire Henley and Partners played a significant role throughout the application process, acting on behalf of applicants and interacting directly with the competent authorities.


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