Justice Minister reveals €310m generated from controversial IIP scheme
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?”