Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says government will remove minister's discretion to award citizenship to applicants facing politically-motivated charges.
Godwin Grima, the former head of the civil service who served under the Nationalist administration, has been proposed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as the regulator for the Individual Investor Programme.
The regulator is set to be appointed by the Prime Minister following consultation with the leader of the Opposition. Muscat will be putting forward his proposal to Simon Busuttil in the coming hours.
Addressing the media at a press conference held after the Bill amending the Maltese Citizenship Act made it through its second reading, Muscat also announced the setting up of monitoring committee to scrutinise both the regulator and the whole system.
"The committee, composed of the Prime Minister, the minister for home affairs and the leader of the Opposition, would meet at least once a year. This is the same structure used to monitor the work of the Secret Services," Muscat said.
The Prime Minister said the government was putting itself up for scrutiny. "The Opposition tomorrow has a choice: if it really wants to help in the programme we urge it to reconsider its position. This programme will be implemented responsibly," he said
Muscat claims his government stands to reap as much as €30 million from the Individual Investor Programme, which will sell Maltese citizenship at €650,000 for each applicant. His budgetary estimates are based on €15 million of this income. The law is expected to pass with ease tomorrow thanks to his nine-seat majority, but the Opposition might be expected to push amendments at committee stage.
Muscat insisted that the IIP was crucial for the economic development on the country - "a programme which will be remembered for having created more wealth for the country," he told the press Friday evening.
According to Muscat, the IIP was "the second most expensive after Austria's", which demands a €10 million investment or €3 million public donation. He said the government had welcomed on board the Opposition's proposal for better governance of the system.
"We want to bring in talented and high net worth individuals. We don't want any shady characters... individuals like Rakhat Aliyev who allegedly paid €100,000. We will have the best due diligence system," Muscat added.
The Prime Minister insisted that the Opposition leader's threat for a "mass deprivation" of citizenships granted under the IIP was unconstitutional and in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "But I have concluded that Busuttil's declaration was simply political bluff with the sole intention of harming the programme. The Opposition knows it's going to be a success and I am convinced that investors are not taking him seriously," he said.
Muscat also confirmed that the government will be removing a proposed clause in the draft bill granting the minister the faculty to award citizenship to individuals with politically motivated charges.
"This was a criticism we have taken on board and will be removed tomorrow when the bill will be at committee stage," he said.
Asked whether it was unfair that citizenship could be bought for €650,000 but that an individual who had been living in Malta for six or seven years had to rely on a ministerial declaration, Muscat was evasive in his reply.
"We heard various proposals, including capping the citizenships granted under the scheme. It's as if saying we should start capping the number of foreigners who gain Maltese citizenship through marriage. This programme will be a success."