Updated 4.27pm with prime minister response
The controversial cash-for-passports scheme will be retained, Prime Minister Robert Abela confirmed after pressure from the opposition and the business lobby to suspend or scrap it.
Dr Abela was speaking after Nationalist party leader Adrian Delia said he had refused to consult with the government on who should be appointed the programme's regulator.
Dr Delia said he had told Dr Abela that it was time to scrap the Individual Investor Programme, which sees wealthy individuals pay for Maltese, and therefore EU, citizenship.
In a tweet he said the so-called 'golden passports' scheme should end because it had "left our country's reputation in tatters".
"As Opposition and PN leader, I refused to be consulted on the appointment of the scheme's regulator," he said.
Dr Delia has long called for a suspension of the scheme and last week, the Chamber of Commerce also said it should be paused.
According to the latest annual report, the programme raised €271.6 million in the last financial year, which equated to 2.11 per cent of the country’s wealth (GDP).
However, sales have dropped persistently and the current regulator Carmel De Gabriele partly blamed the fall on bad publicity.
The scheme has come under the spotlight, with an EU Parliament delegation describing it as risking "importing criminals and money laundering into the whole EU".
However Dr Abela told Times of Malta he had no plans to either suspend or scrap the scheme.
"I have already stated that I plan to stick with the scheme," he said on Friday.
"If I have to make any due diligence changes I will but the scheme has brought a lot of good to the country and I want to preserve it."
However he stated that the due diligence surrounding the scheme was already very high, evidenced by the volume of applications that are rejected.
Dr Abela said it was a mistake for Dr Delia not to consult with him over appointing a regulator.
"I wished to have his input. I think that to abdicate from this responsibility is a mistake on his behalf."
"I'm ready to collaborate with him over this issue as I believe this collaboration would lead to better results."
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