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Fifth Malta cash-for-passports client charged with financial crime this year

Russian/Israeli/Maltese citizen charged with fraud in the US as multiple employees arrested on charges of money laundering, smuggling, and fraud. Photo: Running Commentary

Another new Maltese citizen has been charged with criminal offences, the fifth such incidence in the last 12 months.

Anatoly Hurgin, an Israeli citizen, bought Maltese passports for himself and his family in 2016. He is currently facing fraud charges in both the United States and Israel.

Hurgin was previously a member of the Israeli Defence Forces, and ran companies that specialized in “phone hacking and cutting edge surveillance technology” which could be used “to gather and record private information on anyone, anywhere, and anytime.”   

Israeli authorities arrested a number of employees from his company Ability Inc in September on suspicion of committing ”offences of fraud, smuggling, and money laundering on a significant scale while carrying out their business activities. The Israeli Defence Ministry had been investigating the firm for breaking international law, but a gag order has been imposed on the identity of those arrested and on many of the details of the case.

Earlier this year, in June 2019, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also charged Hurgin, Ability Inc, and Chief Technology Officer Alexander Vladimir Aurovsky with five violations of US federal law for defrauding the shareholders of a Florida-based company. The defendants profited by a total of €30.5 million, while shareholders in the Florida company lost €53.8 million.

These incidents are recent, but Hurgin’s other brushes with the law preceded his acquisition of Maltese citizenship.

Assassinated journalist Daphne Caurana Galizia had also previously raised the alarm over Hurgin three years ago when he first received Maltese citizenship. She wrote how he was previously a member of the Israeli Defence forces and that his companies Ability Inc, Ability Computers & Software industries Ltd and Active Intelligence Labs Ltd specializes in “phone hacking and cutting edge surveillance technology.”

He boasted to Forbes that “With just a few million dollars and a phone number, you can snoop on any call or text that phone makes – no matter where you are or where the device is located.”

Three months before Anatoly Hurgin was issued with his Maltese passport, investors in Tel Aviv had filed for damages of some €5.5 million against him, and a class action lawsuit was filed against him in the US for violation of the Securities Act. 

Identity Malta’s “rigorous” due diligence procedures somehow missed these incidents, which The Shift found with a simple Google Search of Hurgin’s name. 

Five new Maltese citizens have found themselves on the wrong side of the law in last 12 months. Russian billionaire Boris Mints had his assets frozen by UK courts over his alleged role in a “fraudulent scheme”. Egyptian national Mustafa Abdel Wadoood pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering in the United States and is facing up to 125 years in prison. Chinese billionaire Liu Zhongtian was indicted in the US for evading €1.6 billion in aluminium tariffs. And Pavel Melnikov had his companies raided by Finnish authorities over suspicion of financial crimes.

Despite the alarming frequency of such cases, Identity Malta has confirmed to The Shift that it will not be conducting a review of those who have been granted Maltese citizenship through the cash for passports scheme, stressing that “a rigorous system” was already in place.

Malta’s program has come under fire from the European Commission, which said that such schemes open the European Union to money laundering, corruption and organised crime.

A report by Transparency International and Global Witness entitled ‘European Getaway: Inside the Murky World of Golden Visas detailed the high risk of money laundering and financial crimes linked to ‘cash for passports’ programs— exactly the sort of crimes these new Maltese citizens are being charged with.

 

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