Editorial | Fairness on the IIP, before anything else

Last, but certainly, not least, the problem of nepotism and favouritism has to be eradicated with strict rule


Readers of this newspaper need no convincing that fairness and full information are key elements in a modern free market.

On that basis alone, we need to call out certain irregularities with the way the Individual Investor Programme is run.

There is no doubt that the IIP has provided a formidable boost to the consolidated fund, and that the millions reaped in the national posterity fund can be put to use in times of extraordinary need, or even for projects of goodwill that could serve to better Malta’s human capital.

Nothing, for example, would be more welcome than a concrete investment in Malta’s education system – be it both infrastructure and teachers’ salaries – and in Malta’s financial security and crime prevention sectors.

But beyond the benefits of the national social and development fund and its key contributor, this week’s undercover exposé by a French television programme of one of the IIP’s main agents boasting of political connections, raises a few red flags.

The IIP has already been the subject of often scathing criticism by the European Parliament, among other international institutions… on the basis that a Maltese passport entails access to the entire European Union. The arguments vary: some say it amounts to an alleged security risk for other countries, even though this is actually one of the most scrutinised requests for free movement in the EU. So it has been refreshing to see immediate action taken with the suspension of the agent in question and an inquiry launched into the applicants of the said agent. Nothing could be worse than adverse publicity for the IIP, so the actions of parliamentary secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli and the MIIPA are indeed welcome.

However, this inquiry should not stop there. There are indeed concrete reforms necessary to make the IIP stronger.

In the first place, Article 6 of the IIP, which grants the minister discretion to green-light applicants recommended by the IIP agency but who might have a criminal record or similar peccadillo, should be revoked. Only clearly identifiable rules should be the key criteria to determine successful rules, and the minister’s discretion should only be employed in reasoned motivations to refuse applicants, always within the bounds of the rule of law.

Secondly, the MIIPA has to furnish of its own accord, the entire list of names of golden passport applicants because the naturalisation of these citizens is the result of a commercial transaction, and as such makes it of public interest that the rest of the citizenry, both native and naturalised, is aware of who obtains Maltese nationality and its benefits by dint of their investment. The practice of publishing the names of newly-naturalised citizens alphabetically by name, and not by surname, is nothing but a childish game and a sham.

Thirdly, the Office of the Regulator of the IIP is urged to carry out a proper inquiry into the value of properties acquired and rented out by the IIP citizens, to ensure that proper architectural valuations have been submitted for each property invested by the IIP applicants as per the programme’s rules.

Fourthly, the ORiip should also issue the statistics pertaining to each individual agency’s number of applications presented to the MIIPA and how many of these were successful. It is clearly essential that businesses have access to such information so as to have full information on the citizenship market.

Last, but certainly, not least, the problem of nepotism and favouritism has to be eradicated with strict rules.

A case in point is news that Chetcuti Cauchi, the suspended agency, was allowed to use the interior of the Auberge de Castille as its backdrop for a promotional video that stars Julia Farrugia Portelli and MIIPA CEO Jonathan Cardona. This gives Chetcuti Cauchi an unfair advantage over other worthy agencies, and also represents a gross misuse of the premises of the State for the benefit of a private firm.

Those videos should be pulled down from the company’s website and social media presence, the high-ranking officials featuring in it should apologise for promoting the company (albeit through an otherwise neutral presentation of the IIP), and the company itself should pay the exchequer a fair rate for having employed the premises for its promotional purposes.

Fairness, before anything else

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