Justice Minister Owen Bonnici is still “thinking about” whether he will take legal action against a law firm that claimed it is friendly with him and other ministers, after Malta’s citizenship scheme regulator rubbished the allegations.
Individual Investor Programme regulator Carmel De Gabriele said on Tuesday, his investigation into claims made by agents of Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates to undercover French undercover journalists had turned up “no red flags”.
The claims, aired on the French TV show Enquête Exclusive (Exclusive Inquiry), included one of the firm’s senior partners saying he was personally acquainted with Dr Bonnici, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli. The agent was also recorded telling undercover journalists that ministers could “wink” to help give him information about citizenship applications.
In his conclusions, the IIP regulator said that if the claims made during the French TV show were authentic, it appeared that the three politicians named by the agents had been “grossly slandered”.
Asked for a reaction to the regulator’s report, Dr Bonnici told Times of Malta he was “absolutely not amused” by the firm’s claims.
“My name has been mentioned carelessly and needlessly in a chat which the regulator described to be an exercise of misleading advertisement,” Dr Bonnici said.
The minister said he still had to “think whether the opportune way forward is to take legal steps”.
Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates had its licence to sell Maltese citizenship to investors suspended in September, after the French TV show was aired.
Ms Farrugia Portelli said on Tuesday she had ordered “an analysis of the recommendations” included in the report but made no additional comment on whether the government would be seeking redress.
Meanwhile, contacted yesterday for a reaction, a spokesman for the Chetcuti Cauchi firm did not reply to questions, instead telling Times of Malta they would be issuing a statement today.
On its part, the Nationalist Party said the regulator’s report confirmed how the sale of passports was damaging Malta’s reputation.
The regulator had not denied anything revealed by the French journalists about a law firm having close links with the Prime Minister in what amounted to trading in influence, the PN said.
Nor did it deny that many people who bought Maltese citizenship were facing serious criminal investigations, it added.
The party also reiterated its appeal for the government to suspend the sale of citizenship with “immediate effect”.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us