Money don’t get everything, it’s true
What it don’t get, I can’t use

Now give me money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want, yeah
That’s what I want

– ‘Money’ by The Beatles

Since its inception in 1995, the Corruption Perception Index, Transparency International’s flagship report has become the leading global indicator of public sector corruption. The index offers an annual snapshot of the degree of corruption by ranking countries from all over the globe. The following is the latest data available for Malta’s corruption rank.

Transparency International (TI) carried an article about the threats posed by certain states’ ‘golden passport’ visa schemes to the entire Union. Amnesty International stated that it was time that the European Union should start to act. The European Commission decided to start infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta after an Al Jazeera report revealed that Cypriot politicians were involved in corruption. It’s not far from the realm of likelihood to say that Maltese politicians and high government officials could be involved.

Like any other commodity European Union citizenship can be bought. There is no shortage of buyers and suppliers. This has now become a multi-billion euro industry. The rules of the game in this market are shaped by the respective government officials and agents who have demonstrated their wish for quick gains. The selling of passports, however, is not without hazards. The EU has until now treated this new industry with a soft hand but now the corruption risks by the sale of passports and citizenship schemes have started to threaten the integrity of the Union.

Transparency International welcomed the EU’s decision to launch infringement procedures against Malta and Cyprus over breaches of EU law following reports of sale of citizenship to suspicious people amongst them criminals. “This is exactly the kind of decisive action we have been calling for,” said Laure Brillaud, Senior Anti-Money Laundering Policy Officerof TI. He continued: “There is overwhelming evidence that the golden passports schemes of Cyprus and Malta have been serving corrupt interests, not the common good.”

Brillaud stated that Transparency International was hopeful that the infringement procedure will be complimented by a European Union reform that bans the schemes. “Heeding the calls from the European Parliament, the European Commission should present a plan for the phasing out of the golden visa schemes.”

For years our government have been ignoring public outrage both locally and abroad. Despite repeated warnings, Malta has for years granted citizenship to individuals without proper due diligence, breaching the obligation of sincere cooperation between member states. Recently in Parliament MP Karol Aquilina listed a number of criminals who have been granted Maltese citizenship. One was even given the privilege to vote in the local general elections. With these decisions Malta was jeopardising the security and integrity of the European Union.

Keith Schembri, former chief of staff to Joseph Muscat, was arrested last month over an alleged kickback of €100,000 related to the passport scheme. It was Daphne Caruana Galizia who revealed the kickbacks just a few months before her untimely death by car bomb. The police have still to arraign Keith Schembri, who is on police bail, and was supposed to be arraigned in mid-October.

Unlike Malta, Cyprus has declared that it will discontinue the golden passport scheme. In Malta, Robert Abela is insisting on continuing the scheme which helped him finance his ‘best ever budget.’ At a press conference Robert Abela said that he will preserve the citizenship programme. When asked whether he will publish a separate list of those who had bought Maltese citizenship through the IIP scheme, Dr Abela said that he will not.

Robert Abela confirmed that the scheme will be retained withstanding the pressure from the opposition and the business lobby to scrap or at least suspend it. The ppposition is rightly claiming that the scheme left Malta’s reputation in tatters. The government didn’t even have the decency to consult the opposition about the appointment of the scheme’s regulator.

Recently sales of passports  has dropped significantly. Regulator Carmel De Gabriele blames this on ‘bad publicity’. A European Parliament delegation perfectly described the scheme as risking ‘importing criminals and money launderers into the whole European Union.’

However, Robert Abela insisted that he had no plans to either suspend or end the scheme. “I have already stated that I plan to stick with the scheme,” he said and “If I have to make any due diligence changes I will, but the scheme had brought a lot of good.”

Because for our Prime Minister, as his predecessor, the only thing that matters is money. Look at how he is managing Covid-19.