Jus­tice Min­is­ter re­veals €310m gen­er­ated from con­tro­ver­sial IIP scheme

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Gabriel Schem­bri

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Owen Bon­nici re­vealed that the con­tro­ver­sial In­di­vid­ual In­vest­ment Pro­gramme has gen­er­ated €310,300,500 for Malta. He as­sured the public that this money will be en­joyed by all, and not just a few.

Dr Bon­nici said this yes­ter­day dur­ing the bud­get es­ti­mate speech for his port­fo­lio of cul­ture, jus­tice and lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

In ad­di­tion, he said that a fur­ther €44 mil­lion had been in­vested in prop­erty sales and €24 mil­lion in rent. The IIP pro­gramme refers to the pos­si­bil­ity for peo­ple to pur­chase Mal­tese cit­i­zen­ship through an in­vest­ment pro­gramme.

He called the pro­gramme a suc­cess and ap­pealed to the Op­po­si­tion to, be­fore crit­i­cis­ing the pro­gramme, go and speak to their mem­bers who act as agents for the IIP scheme and ask if the scheme is re­ally rid­dled with cor­rup­tion.

“The names of the IIP buy­ers: ev­ery year we pub­lish a list of all those who were given Mal­tese cit­i­zen­ship through nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion,” he said.

It is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to iden­tify those in­di­vid­u­als who pur­chased cit­i­zen­ship through the IIP scheme, be­cause there are oth­ers who get cit­i­zen­ship through mar­riage or be­cause they have lived in Malta for a num­ber of years.

He said that an is­sue of data pro­tec­tion is brought to light when chal­lenged with pub­lish­ing the names of the IIP buy­ers alone.

Speak­ing of the scan­dal where IIP buy­ers were given the right to vote de­spite not meet­ing Malta’s con­sti­tu­tional cri­te­ria to be placed on the elec­torate reg­is­ter, he ques­tioned whether cor­rup­tion re­ally took place here as was said by the Op­po­si­tion.

Dr Bon­nici said it is up to the courts to strike peo­ple off the registry, and in the ma­jor­ity of cases the mag­is­trate struck the nec­es­sary names off fol­low­ing the case be­ing filed in court by the Na­tion­al­ist Party.

He said that a form was cre­ated for IIP buy­ers to ask if they are in­ter­ested in vot­ing in Malta’s elec­tions, with many ex­press­ing their wish not to vote.

“Is this the scan­dal? Is this cor­rup­tion?” Dr Bon­nici ques­tioned.

Rather than pros­e­cu­tion be­ing car­ried out in crim­i­nal cases by the po­lice them­selves, Dr Bon­nici ad­dressed the need for a dis­tinct unit car­ry­ing out the pros­e­cu­tion.

The ma­jor­ity of the West­ern world pros­e­cutes crim­i­nal cases by in­de­pen­dent pros­e­cu­tors com­ing from the of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral. Dr Bon­nici said this would be ideal for two rea­sons, the first be­ing it would im­prove the pros­e­cu­tion’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties and as­sist the AG in its du­ties and the sec­ond be­ing that it would al­low po­lice more time to carry out in­ves­ti­ga­tions and po­lice work.

Dr Bon­nici said this process should be changed slowly, not from one day to the next.

He slammed all counter-pro­duc­tive crit­i­cism lev­elled against the high­est in­sti­tu­tions of Malta, such as the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s of­fice and the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Anal­y­sis Unit.

Ear­lier, shadow Min­is­ter for Jus­tice, Ja­son Az­zopardi said that this year’s bud­get lacks vi­sion in the jus­tice sec­tor as the bud­get speech fails to men­tion some im­por­tant as­pects in this re­gard. His speech was, how­ever, char­ac­terised by ref­er­ence to what he called breach of the con­sti­tu­tion by Iden­tity Malta.

Dr Az­zopardi said that this en­tity has be­come syn­ony­mous with cor­rup­tion. He said that when asked, the Prime Min­is­ter did not di­vulge how much money was made by the IIP ini­tia­tive. He said that Iden­tity Malta is breach­ing Con­sti­tu­tional Law as IM is act­ing as elec­toral com­mis­sioner. “It ap­pears that Iden­tity Malta is telling IIP ap­pli­cants that they will be au­to­mat­i­cally given the right to vote. This goes against the con­sti­tu­tion, be­cause hav­ing an ID card does not au­to­mat­i­cally give you the right to vote.”

Fur­ther­more, it ap­pears that Iden­tity Malta also has a dec­la­ra­tion on the “re­fusal to reg­is­ter as voter.”

On the 12-month res­i­dency re­quire­ment, Dr Az­zopardi read a dec­la­ra­tion by John Car­dona which was con­tra­dicted by Joe Vella Bon­nici when he said that IIP ap­pli­cants only need to make two com­pul­sory short vis­its be­fore they get the cit­i­zen­ship.

Dr Az­zopardi also tabled a list of 42 cases with the names and ad­dresses show­ing when these ap­pli­cants ap­plied for cit­i­zen­ship and were handed the right to vote on the same day. He said that thanks to the PN, the court has re­fused their right to vote as it ap­peared they were not re­ally re­sid­ing in Malta.

He also pre­sented copies of ap­pli­cants who even ap­plied to their vot­ing right be­fore they re­ceived their cit­i­zen­ship. “This gov­ern­ment has cre­ated face­less vot­ers, for the first time in his­tory.”

Dr Az­zopardi called on the min­istry to launch an in­quiry to look into these cases.

“I want to warn the public, this gov­ern­ment is ruth­less, do­ing the un­think­able and has no lim­its.”

He said that if the gov­ern­ment keeps on drag­ging with­out in­tro­duc­ing the law which reg­u­lates the Lawyers’ Act, the Op­po­si­tion will be forced to table a Pri­vate Mem­ber’s Bill.

He said that there were pos­i­tive steps for­ward in this sec­tor such as the fact that there are now less pend­ing cases than be­fore. He men­tioned the fact that this gov­ern­ment will set up three new court halls. How­ever, Dr Az­zopardi said that if the fig­ure of €700,000 needed is true, “then these halls will not be built with bricks, but with €10 notes.”

As for med­i­ta­tion, Dr Az­zopardi said that un­like the pre­vi­ous Labour Op­po­si­tion, the Na­tion­al­ist-led Op­po­si­tion will be giv­ing the gov­ern­ment the needed sup­port. He also made ref­er­ence to re­cent in­dus­trial ac­tions taken by court work­ers at the registry and in­sisted that the gov­ern­ment should al­lo­cate enough funds to solve these pend­ing is­sues.

He crit­i­cized the gov­ern­ment for the lack of proper pri­or­i­ties. “The gov­ern­ment al­lo­cates only €9,000 for train­ing mem­bers of the ju­di­ciary. Why is the gov­ern­ment hold­ing back from in­vest­ing more money there when the peo­ple in Castille were will­ing to put €1 mil­lion each year in a hid­den off­shore ac­count? Imag­ine what the gov­ern­ment could do with €1 mil­lion well spent on the law courts?” He added that this is why cor­rup­tion trans­lates into tax.

Dr Az­zopardi said that this bud­get has no vi­sion with re­gards to the jus­tice sec­tor as the min­is­ter failed to men­tion any mea­sure which will ad­dress the is­sues re­lated to lo­cal band clubs. He said that lo­cal band clubs are a source of tal­ent and the Op­po­si­tion wants to pre­serve this tra­di­tion which af­fects thou­sands of peo­ple. He fur­ther added that the gov­ern­ment should al­lo­cate funds specif­i­cally to help these band clubs.

He said the min­is­ter’s speech makes ref­er­ence to the rule of law and Dr Az­zopardi said that if the gov­ern­ment truly be­lieves in this, it should re­spect the red lines, the guide­lines which gov­ern our in­sti­tu­tions. “I stood in awe look­ing at the AG read­ing the Min­is­ter for Jus­tice’s speech at a meet­ing for no­taries. This is not on. This is the job of the permanent sec­re­tary and the AG should not be­come a pup­pet in the gov­ern­ment’s hand.”

PBS cred­i­bil­ity thrown out of the win­dow - Clyde Puli

The PBS head of news has lit­er­ally thrown away the rep­u­ta­tion he has built over the years, PN MP Clyde Puli said in Par­lia­ment. It is a known fact that Castille in­ter­fered in ma­jor sto­ries, such as the vis­its in Azer­bai­jan, he added.

Mr Puli crit­i­cized the medi­ocrity of tvm.com.mt, the news por­tal for the PBS. He said it looks more like a tabloid like The Sun than the por­tal of the na­tional broad­caster. The PN MP said that the per­son head­ing the web­site, used to work with a gov­ern­ment min­istry and is only one of the 25 peo­ple re­cently en­gaged with the na­tional broad­caster.

“What’s worse is that these new Tagħna Lkoll em­ploy­ees, are new but they are still get­ting paid more than those vet­er­ans who have worked there for years.”

Re­fer­ring to the new PBS sched­ule, he said that it is sad to see good pro­grammes such as Times Talk or Mad­warna, which was a very pop­u­lar pro­gramme by Salvu Mal­lia, be­ing left out. He also asked why the PBS re­fused to ac­cept the pro­gramme by The Malta In­de­pen­dent, IN­DEPTH.

He also lam­basted the lack of news value be­ing re­ported by the na­tional broad­caster. “For some rea­son, tvm.com.mt was the only news por­tal which did not re­port the in­fa­mous ‘niġi għa­lik u nifqgħak’ event in Par­lia­ment but they made space to re­port the case of an arch­bishop in the UK, who fi­nally dis­cov­ered who his real fa­ther is. Where is the news value in this?”

Owen Bon­nici

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