Identity Malta has confirmed that the process for the “deprivation of citizenship” for Mustafa Abdel Wadood and his dependents after he pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges in a US Court.
Replying to questions sent by The Shift, the Agency responsible for citizenship said it took such matters “very seriously” and the process to revoke the citizenship granted to Abdel Wadood less than a year ago.
Abdel Wadood was listed in the Government Gazette of 21 December 2018 as being granted Maltese citizenship. He was arrested in the US less than four months later, The Shift News had revealed.
“Please be informed that whilst we will not discuss individual cases, MIIPA together with the Parliamentary Secretary and Identity Malta, the Agency responsible for citizenship, have already initiated the process for the deprivation of citizenship of the said person and his dependants according to Article 14 of the Maltese Citizenship Act (Chapter 188),” the Agency said in its reply after The Shift published an article on its silence on the matter.
The question on the due diligence conducted before Abdel Wadood was granted citizenship remained unanswered.
Egyptian national Abdel Wadood is facing 125 years in prison for financial crimes, including fraud and money laundering. He told the court that the case dated back to 2014: “I knew at the time what I was doing was wrong”.
Yet he sought and acquired citizenship in Malta. “In such cases, MIIPA takes all the necessary and possible legal steps to safeguard the integrity of the programme. Instances do occur where the agency becomes aware of facts or evidence of wrongdoing after due diligence is completed and citizenship is granted,” the Agency added.
A former executive of the private equity firm Abraaj Capital in Dubai, Abdel Wadood admitted to lying about the financial health of the company to investors, conspiracy and fraud.
His actions led to the “world’s largest equity insolvency” in 2018, Bloomberg reports. Five other employees of Abraaj Group, including founder and former CEO Arif Naqvi, have also been charged in the US.
It is not yet known whether similar action will be taken against Chinese billionaire Liu Zhongtian who was also granted Maltese citizenship. Registered as living in a small apartment in Naxxar, Zhongtian has been charged in the US with evading $1.8 billion in aluminium tariffs.
And last year, Pavel Melnikov, a Russian who holds a Maltese passport, had his company raided by the Finnish authorities. The company is suspected of financial crimes and Melnikov owns a string of assets and businesses in Poland, Latvia, Finland and Russia that have been described as “bizarre structures”.