A review into the Maltese cash-for-passports agents filmed boasting of their warm relationship government ministers has begun, the regulator of the controversial scheme said.  

Carmel De Gabriele, the regulator of the Individual Investor Programme, told Times of Malta he had started the ball rolling for a review as soon as he was made aware of the matter on Monday morning. It was now well under way. 

On Sunday night, an episode of French news show Enquête Exclusive (Exclusive Inquiry) aired footage of lawyers from Chetcuti Cauchi Advisors Ltd describing their friendship with both Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Julia Farrugia

One agent is caught on camera telling the French TV journalist that passport buyers who are originally turned down can get a second chance if officials “turn a blind eye”. 

The journalist was posing as a representative of African clients wanting to purchase Maltese citizenship. 

Shortly after the programme aired, the law firm had its licence to sell passports to foreign investors suspended

Mr De Gabriele confirmed that he had been requested by the Malta Individual Investment Programme Agency to carry out a review of all applications received through the firm since the launching of the programme.  

The regulator, however, would not provide any details of the review, including how many applications had been put forward by the firm, and how may had been successful.   

“At this stage, I will be holding any specific details forming part of the above-mentioned review, including any form of relative relevant statistics, in strict confidence,” he said in response to written questions. 

Agents lose residency permit rights

Meanwhile, it would appear that in temporarily losing its licence to act as agents for the IIP scheme, the Chetcuti Cauchi firm has also been struck off the list of agents able to sell residency.  

The firm was quietly removed from the Malta Residency Visa Agency website this week. Industry insiders pointed out that since these different programmes had been introduced in succession, it was likely that the IIP licence counted for varying schemes. 

They also weighed in on the alleged behaviour of the Chetcuti Cauchi agents, describing their remarks as “bluff”. 

“I think this was just sales talk, you know, trying to impress clients with contacts. It sure doesn’t look good, in fact it makes the rest of us all look bad,” one agent said.   

The Nationalist Opposition has written to the Public Accounts Committee requesting it to investigate the case.

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