Updated 6.33pm: adds Citizenship Parliamentary Secretary's reaction
A total of 58 foreign nationals bought a Maltese passport without presenting their birth certificate in just 18 months, opposition MP Karol Aquilina is claiming.
“This is further testament to the fake due diligence of this programme which is tarnishing Malta’s reputation,” he said.
Aquilina divulged this “scandal” in parliament on Monday during a debate on the amendments to the Citizenship Act, which will pave the way for the new citizenship programme scheme.
He noted that the opposition was against the sale of citizenship in principle as this was attracting shady individuals involved in money laundering, fraud, tax evasion and criminal organisations.
Moreover, the names of the successful applicants were not being published separately but together with thousands of others who gained citizenship through naturalisation.
Aquilina said that despite government’s assurances that applicants were being vetted through a rigorous due diligence process, there had been various individuals who were granted citizenship while they were involved in criminal activity.
“This due diligence is fake as I am informed that in just 18 months 58 applicants bought a Maltese passport despite not presenting a birth certificate,” Aquilina said.
“What sort of scrutiny are the authorities carrying out if they are not even able to verify the date of birth of applicants?” he questioned.
The MP said that if the government was so keen to retain this scheme, the level of scrutiny should be tightened. This could be done by publishing the names of all those applying for Maltese citizenship to make it easier to flag any suspicious applicants.
The opposition, he said, would support the government were it to decide to scrap the programme.
“We would be ready to sit down and propose new streams of revenue to replace the sale of passports,” he said.
'Birth certificate not only means to identify applicants'
Winding up, Citizenship Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat insisted that there were other ways and means to identify an applicant apart from the birth certificate. Moreover, countries such as China and Saudi Arabia did not issue birth certificates up to a few decades ago.
Under the new scheme, anyone interested in getting a Maltese passport will have to live in Malta for a year before being allowed to apply for citizenship removing the possibility of individuals applying for Maltese citizenship without first becoming residents, he said.
Another change is that applicants have to invest €750,000, up from €650,000 under the existing rules, to be able to apply for citizenship after living in Malta for one year.
Applicants who invest €600,000 will have to spend three years in Malta before applying for a passport.
The minimum value of the property purchased will double to €700,000 from €350,000. A €10,000 philanthropic donation will be mandatory.
Up to 400 citizenship applications will be approved per year and the new scheme will be capped at a maximum of 1,500 successful applicants.
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