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Casa calls for end to cash-for-passports following fifth arrest of Maltese citizen

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David Casa, Quaestor and Maltese Member of European Parliament, has written to Vera Jourová, the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers, and Gender Equality, calling for the suspension of Malta’s cash-for-passport scheme.

Casa sent a letter to the Commissioner on 24 October in which he raised concerns over recently reported irregularities in the sale of Maltese citizenship, including the suspension of the “leading citizenship-selling law firm” over footage which apparently revealed collusion with top government officials. 

He also referred to the case of Anatoly Hurgin, the most recent new Maltese citizen to be charged with criminal offences, noting that, “This matter raises fresh and legitimate concerns in the due diligence processes being carried out in screening foreign nationals who wish to purchase European citizenship through this increasingly controversial scheme, as well as the extent to which such due diligence processes have been intentionally compromised.”

Hurgin, the CEO of a surveillance company, is facing serious fraud, smuggling, and money laundering charges in Israel. He has also been charged with five violations of US federal law for defrauding the shareholders of a Florida-based company, as reported by The Shift last week.

Those charges are recent, but Hurgin was also the subject of lawsuits for violating the US Securities Act just three months before he was awarded Maltese citizenship. Despite so-called “rigorous” due diligence procedures employed by Identity Malta, matters that can be found with a simple Google search were not flagged.

“Time and time again we have seen countless examples of the scheme going wrong,” Casa said in his letter. “With this scheme and similar ones in other Member States, Europe is opening its doors to people who intend to use their newly-acquired citizenship to further their criminal actions, and openly inviting an increase in money laundering and organised crime.”

He called on Commissioner Jourová to suspend passport-selling schemes, including Malta’s, and for “action to be taken to mitigate the consequences already in effect as a result of this”.

On 24 October, PN MP Karol Aquilina published documents alleging that Hurgin lied on a declaration made to Identity Malta that would give him permission to vote. The declaration states that Hurgin has been in Malta for 180 days prior to signing it, but he allegedly spent less than 20 days in the country.

The Shift asked Identity Malta, the Agency responsible for overseeing the sale of Maltese passports, what action it will be taking on Hurgin, and whether it will be reviewing all previous customers and tightening due diligence procedures in light of the fifth arrest of a new Maltese citizen in less than 12 months. Identity Malta failed to reply.

Identity Malta also failed to answer questions relating to the information posted by PN MP Karol Aquilina on Hurgin’s allegedly fraudulent declaration.

In a previous response to The Shift, Identity Malta confirmed they had no plans to conduct a review, as “a rigorous system” is already in place. 

Anatoly Hurgin was just the most recent new Maltese citizen to be arrested or investigated for serious financial crimes in the 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 calls from the European Commission, the Council of Europe and many other international bodies to suspend or end the controversial scheme, the government of Malta has failed to take action.

 

Shaukat Ali Abdul Ghafoor Tigne

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