Identity Malta and the Maltese embassy in the US have failed to answer questions on action being taken with regards to Maltese citizen Mustafa Abdel Wadood who pleaded guilty to charges of fraud in a Manhattan Court.
The agency responsible for Malta’s cash for passports scheme was asked whether it planned to withdraw Abdel Wadood’s citizenship. Under Maltese law, acquired citizenship can be revoked under instruction from the Home Affairs Minister where an individual is deemed “not conducive to the public good” or convicted of a crime and sentenced to more than 12 months.
Abdel Wadood faces up to 125 years in prison, after admitting to fraud and conspiracy, as well as misleading investors on the company’s financial standing. He also admitted to “co-mingling” funds.
Following his arrest in the US in April, The Shift News had reported his Maltese citizenship appearing in the Government Gazette only four months earlier.
“I knew at the time what I was doing was wrong,” he told the Court, adding that the problems started in 2014.
In the meantime, the Egyptian national sought and acquired Maltese citizenship, raising questions on due diligence processes.
When The Shift News had reported Abdel Wadood’s arrest, Identity Malta had refused to comment, saying the case was “sub judice” despite the fact that the case was being heard in a different jurisdiction. Questions sent to the agency again following Abdel Wadood’s admission of guilt were not answered.
Cases such as Abdel Wadood’s showed “due diligence failure,” according to senior professor at Aberdeen University Justin Borg-Barthet. He said they were examples of why citizenship sale programmes were “a danger to the rule of law”.
Finally, for the uninitiated, this is why citizenship sale programmes are a danger to the #RuleOfLaw:
– the market relies on loopholes which allow criminals to acquire EU citizenship;
– institutions are reprogrammed to ensure that all manner of unsavoury behaviour goes unchecked
— Justin Borg-Barthet (@JustinBBarthet) August 6, 2019
Borg-Barthet also questioned whether any of these individuals had requested or been granted consular assistance by Malta or other EU Member States, as was their right. Yet questions on this sent by The Shift News to the Maltese embassy in the US remained unanswered.
Abdel Wadood is just the lastest in a string of scandals involving individuals granted Maltese passports.
Last month, Chinese billionaire Liu Zhongtian was charged with evading $1.8 billion in aluminium tariffs. He holds a Maltese passport and is registered as living in a seedy Naxxar flat since 2016, despite his wealth.
In another case, a company owned by a Russian with a Maltese passport was raided on suspicion of financial crimes in Finland last year. Chairman Pavel Melnikov has a Maltese passport, claims residence in Hungary, and has a web of businesses and property in Poland, Latvia, Finland and Russia, described as “bizarre structures”.