Updated November 5 with IMC reply
A keynote address by lawyer Jean Philippe Chetcuti, senior partner at Chetcuti Cauchi, has been struck off the scheduled programme at an international passport marketing conference to be held in Malta on Monday.
The decision came following orders from the Office of the Prime Minister, The Sunday Times of Malta is informed.
The lawyer had his licence to sell passports suspended, pending a review, after being filmed by a French TV crew boasting about his connections with the Maltese government in relation to the cash-for-passports programme.
Dr Chetcuti Cauchi was quietly removed from the official programme of the 3rd Annual Malta Workshop on residency and citizenship programmes.
The conference, organised by the Geneva-based Investment Migration Council and the Office of the Prime Minister, is aimed at passport selling agents and will be addressed by senior government officials, including Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms and Citizenship Julia Farrugia Portelli and the Individual Investor Programme CEO Jonathan Cardona.
Was to give delegates a speech on Trends in Investment Migration
Dr Chetcuti was originally selected by the OPM to give delegates a speech on ‘Trends in Investment Migration’ due to his expertise in the subject.
The new conference programme omits any reference to Dr Chetcuti’s address.
The conference will also include the participation of Dimitry Kochenov, dubbed recently in a Dutch TV investigation as ‘the passport professor’. He advises both the Maltese government and its concessionaire Henley & Partners.
The government distanced itself from Dr Chetcuti after in his interview he described his proximity to Joseph Muscat, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and Ms Farrugia Portelli.
Dr Chetcuti’s firm, the first to be appointed an agent of Malta’s controversial passport scheme, was also suspended pending an ongoing investigation by the scheme’s regulator.
Ms Farrugia Portelli, directly responsible for the cash-for-passport-programme, insisted that the only friendship she had with one of the agents’ wives was that they had gone to school together and were on the same school transport, when she was 10 years old.
It later emerged that Dr Portelli and members of the Chetcuti Cauchi firm, including Jean Phillippe and his wife, collaborated on various occasions since her appointment in 2017. One of these partnerships was a corporate video for the lawyer’s firm, promoting the sale of Maltese passports.
The video was filmed inside Auberge de Castille, the Prime Minister’s office. In it, Ms Farrugia Portelli features prominently while Dr Chetcuti addresses his potential clients from the OPM’s cabinet room.
The Chetcuti Cauchi firm, which experienced an exponential growth in the last few years, also lists on its website as having Shanghai Electric – a Chinese state firm – among its base of clients. Shanghai Electric had paid some €300 million to buy a third of Enemalta and the whole power station at Delimara known as the BWSC plant.
The deal was negotiated by then Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and Chetcuti Cauchi advocates acted as advisors to the Chinese state entity.
OPM not involved in organisation - IMC
In a reply, the IMC said it had sole responsibility for the organisation of the workshop, including the programme and speakers.
It said the event in question was not an international passport marketing conference.
"There was no marketing whatsoever going on at the event which, was organised as a workshop with a view towards analysing the future of the industry and the challenges being faced by it and promoting best practice in the industry as well as accountability.
"We would also point out that the workshop itself was organised by the IMC – that it was organised by the IMC under the auspices of the OPM does not mean at all that the OPM was involved in the organisation or that it was involved in the programme or the choice of speakers," it said in a statement.
"It was the IMC alone that invited Dr Chetcuti to make a presentation at the workshop, and no one else – he was absolutely not selected for this purpose by the OPM. Dr Chetcuti’s keynote address was also not struck off the programme as was reported, and much less were ‘orders’ received from the OPM – no such orders (or requests) were made and the OPM absolutely did not ‘remove’ Dr Chetcuti from the programme as was wrongly reported. The decision not to participate in the workshop was Dr Chetcuti’s, on his own initiative, which decision the IMC accepted."
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