Eyebrows have been raised over the government’s failure to publish the list of those granted Maltese citizenship last year.

Asked what had caused the delay, the Office of the Prime Minister did not give a specific reply.

The list includes the names of those who bought Maltese citizenship through the government’s Individual Investor Programme, although their names appear with those of the individuals who gained citizenship through naturalisation, without any distinction being made.

The government is legally bound to publish the list every year and usually does in August.

257 people under the government scheme had been given a Maltese passport last year

To obtain a Maltese passport, which grants the holder  full access to the European Union, applicants must pay €650,000 and invest €150,000 in government stocks or bonds, apart from satisfying property requirements.

The Office of the Prime Minister was contacted earlier this month about the reasons behind the delay. A spokeswoman came back two weeks later saying the list would be published “soon”.

Specific questions about the reasons behind the delay remain unanswered.

The spokeswoman said 257 people under the government scheme had been given a Maltese passport last year. This paper also asked for a list of projects that were earmarked to receive money from the development and social fund, which receives money originating from the scheme.

The spokeswoman said there was €309 million in the fund, adding that all the relevant information would be included in the annual report prepared by the scheme’s regulator.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat came in for sharp criticism this week after travelling to Dubai to attend an event promoting the sale of Maltese passports just days after the brutal murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

German MEP Werner Langen on Thursday demanded that the government halt its passport sales. Dr Muscat, who is contractually bound by Henley & Partners to promote the scheme abroad, denies that Malta’s economy is dependent on the Individual Investor Programme.

Data released by the National Statistics Office shows that the scheme was the biggest contributor to the government’s surplus last year.

Dr Muscat said in Dubai that the scheme was “not about cash or rich people and trying to get a slice out of them”.

A magisterial inquiry is looking into allegations contained in a leaked report drawn up by the government’s anti-money-laundering agency, the FIAU, that Dr Muscat’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, may have received kickbacks amounting to about €100,000 emanating from the passport scheme. Mr Schembri denies the allegations.

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