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Passport buyers from Russia given vote

They were ineligible because they had not lived in Malta

A Russian family who bought Maltese passports through accountant Brian Tonna were given the right to vote, despite telling the electoral authorities that they were ineligible.

Viktor Vashkevich was the main applicant along with his family, who together with two other Russians paid Mr Tonna for services provided under the cash-for-passports scheme.

No wrongdoing by the Russians is being alleged.  A total of €166,831 from these passport sales was transferred to an account held by Mr Tonna, who in turn paid €100,000 into an account owned by the prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, in what Opposition leader Simon Busuttil is alleging was a suspected kickback.

Forms submitted to the Electoral Office by the Vashkevich family show that they were ineligible to vote. All three family members confirmed to the Electoral Office that they had not lived in Malta for the statutory six months in the preceding 18 months. This is the minimum residency period stipulated in the Constitution in order to qualify for a vote.

No wrongdoing by the Russians is being alleged

Despite this, all three family members were included in the electoral register.

Apart from selling Mr Vashkevich a passport, Mr Tonna also set up a company for him in December 2015. In a declaration made to the MFSA, Mr Vashkevich said the company in question conducted the bulk of its business overseas.

According to the Government Gazette, Mr Vaskevich, together with his wife and son, became naturalised citizens in 2015. They were struck off from the electoral register in September 2016.

Last year, the Opposition slammed the government for what it termed as a “vote-buying exercise” after 91 passport buyers were given the right to vote despite not qualifying. The PN filed multiple court cases calling for the removal of their right to vote as they had not satisfied the conditions stipulated in the Constitution.

The Electoral Commission has in the past accused Identity Malta, which runs the cash-for-passports scheme, of failing to provide it with details about new Maltese voters, as it is bound to do by the Constitution.

The Commission even went as far as filing a judicial letter urging Identity Malta to give it all necessary information. A judicial protest was also filed by the PN over the “incomplete” information being given to the Electoral Commission about passport buyers.

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