Updated to include the response from the company.
Two directors from CC Advisors Ltd, the company that was struck off the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) agents list last year following the emergence of a video alleging influence of government relations, are now re-listed on the IIP Agents list in their individual capacity.
A senior director of the company is currently the subject of an in genere (magisterial) inquiry. In September 2019, French news programme Enquête Exclusive broadcasted an interview with Senior Partner Jean-Philippe Chetcuti and CC Advisors Ltd. The programme alleges they told passport clients that ministers could ‘turn a blind eye’ to those clients who were rejected due to criminality.
Chetcuti, whose face is blurred in the programme, also referred to his relationship with former prime minister Joseph Muscat from their time together at school.
Shortly after the programme was aired, the IIP agency suspended the firm’s licence “until further notice”. CC Advisors Ltd remains off the list of IIP agents and the termination of their suspension period has not yet been announced. Yet, the individual directors in the company have once again been approved by the agency to sell passports.
Speaking to The Shift, Chetcuti said: “Our company’s applications were reviewed by the IIP regulator who found no irregularities. The company is confident that the remaining allegations will be disproved by the raw footage already presented.”
The raw footage, Chetcuti added, clearly showed the director saying, “I like to keep a close eye on files” as opposed to the phrase ‘turn a blind eye’. “That phrase is nowhere to be found. In any case, rejections are only due to reputational or health reasons. It is company policy that any client with a hint of a criminal record is outrightly not taken on.”
In November, shortly after the video emerged, IIP regulator Carmel Degabriele conducted an investigation into the claims made by the agents, concluding there were no red flags. The regulator blamed “bad publicity” for the drop in sales of Maltese passports based on “totally unfounded pretexts and pretentions” in the latest report.
The request for a magisterial inquiry was filed by civil society NGO Repubblika, which was given the green light by Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo.
However, Magistrate Edwina Grima threw out the in genere inquiry in respect of the company and will proceed only with the inquiry related to the director of the company, Chetcuti told The Shift.
“In our application, we allege that the information emerging from the programme broadcast on M6 amounts to likely breaches in the criminal code. We allege that over a period of time there has been complicity, conspiracy, and association in a criminal activity that includes bribery, trading in influence and false declarations in a public record among other crimes,” the NGO had said.
Chetcuti countered that all the serious allegations made were thrown out by the magistrate in the first instance, leaving as its mandate the sole matter of the claims of influence, which the director maintains will be disproved by the raw footage of the interview.
Last December, CC Advisors Ltd succeeded in obtaining the raw footage of the documentary after launching judicial action against the media company in France.
In a statement, CC Advisors Ltd had said the raw footage discredited the last remaining allegations raised by the media company. “Having examined the raw footage with various independent experts, it is clear that the French TV producers are guilty of a crude cut-and-paste to portray a lawyer in a bad light,” Chetcuti said in a statement.
Despite the company still being struck off the IIP agency list subject to a magisterial inquiry, Chetcuti is not keeping his distance from the limelight.
On Saturday, he was the protagonist in an interview published by the Investment Migration Insider – an industry publication that regularly serves to whitewash criticism of those in the industry. Besides talking about his relaxed weekends and future plans, Chetcuti also used the interview as an opportunity to lament about the incident.
He referred to the clip in the French documentary as an attack. “Journalists have resorted to unethical and downright criminal methods to portray industry practitioners in a bad light. It is time to stand up for our industry,” he said in the interview.