The parliamentary secretary responsible for citizenship, Julia Farrugia Portelli, insisted on Tuesday that she had never used her influence to meddle in the sale of passports. 

Fielding questions from reporters, Ms Farrugia Portelli said she had no reason to fear any form of inquiry into the controversial Individual Investor Programme, as she had always acted in good faith and above board. 

On Monday a Maltese law firm whose agents boasted to an undercover reporter about being close to government ministers, had its licence to sell passports to foreign investors suspended.

The Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency announced on its website that Chetcuti Cauchi Advisors Ltd, holders of two IIP licences, had their rights to act as agents suspended “until further notice”.

The IIP regulator is now reviewing all of the firm's applications. 

The move followed an episode of Enquête Exclusive (Exclusive Inquiry), in which a Maltese agent for the firm was filmed describing his friendship with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Ms Farrugia Portelli.

Another agent from the same firm was later caught on camera telling the French TV journalist that passport buyers who were originally turned down could get a second chance if ministers "turn a blind eye".

Asked about this, Dr Farrugia Portelli stuck to what she had previously said in a statement - insisting she had only gone to school with one of the agents’ wives, as a child. 

Asked whether the law firm could lose the right to sell citizenship altogether, Ms Farrugia Portelli said she could not rule this out as there were clauses in the law that allowed for an IIP licence to be completely revoked. 

The probe by the IIP regulator, she said “will not take years”, adding that she had confidence in the office of the regulator to get to the bottom of any misconduct. 

Asked if she felt there was need for further inquiry into the sector, and whether this law firm may not be the only one to allegedly behave in this way, Dr Farrugia Portelli said she had no reason to have any suspicions on any of the other IIP agents. 

When it was pointed out to her that the video appeared to suggest that the law firm was trading in influence - a criminal offence - she said there was nothing stopping the police from investigating the matter. 

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.