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Identity Malta split: new chiefs picked without call for applications

Former electoral candidate to chair reformed agency

Identity Malta also handles the controversial sale of passports scheme.Identity Malta also handles the controversial sale of passports scheme.

Heads of three new citizenship agencies were chosen without a call for applications, with one of them being a former Labour electoral candidate. 

The surprise reform was announced by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Citizenship Reforms on Maundy Thursday.

Under the new set-up, State agency Identity Malta, which handles citizenship matters including processing the highly controversial sale of passports (the Individual Investor Programme), was split into three separate entities.

The timing of the announcement and the fact that it happened just five years after Identity Malta was set up raised eyebrows in certain quarters.

The appointment of Labour electoral candidate Ian Castaldi Paris as chairman of the agency also annoyed the Opposition. Dr Castaldi Paris is a former Nationalist mayor of Lija.

Anton Sevasta was selected as Identity Malta’s CEO.

The processing of citizenship applications was transferred to a new IIP agency headed by Frances Mifsud as chairman and Jonathan Cardona as CEO.

A third entity, called the Malta Residence & Visa Agency, is chaired by Nadette Azzopardi. Roderick Cutajar is CEO.

Each agency has its own board of directors, some of whose members sit on the boards of all three entities, a move which, the government said, was intended to ensure a coordinated policy driven by Identity Malta.

'Crisis'

Opposition spokesman Karol Aquilina branded the shake-up as evidence of “Identity Malta’s crisis”, noting it was very telling that the changes were announced during Holy Week.

Accusing the government of attempting to keep the reform under the radar, Dr Aquilina remarked that Identity Malta had been embroiled in a number of scandals since its establishment in September 2013.

The changes are meant to strengthen the government’s hold on Identity Malta

“The changes are meant for the government to strengthen its hold on Identity Malta,” Dr Aquilina said.

He criticised the appointment of Dr Castaldi Paris, saying the Labour candidate would now have access to sensitive personal data that was used to compile the Electoral Register and identity cards. “His appointment amounts to a blatant conflict of interest,” he insisted.

No reply on selection procedure

Times of Malta asked the government to state what had led to the split and why it had decided not to issue a public call to fill the top posts.

A spokeswoman for the Parliamentary Secretariat for Citizenship Reforms told the Times of Malta the changes were required due to the “success” of the IIP and the Malta Residence and Visa Programme. “The reform is aimed at achieving efficiency and transparency concurrently,” she said.

As for Dr Castaldi Paris’s appointment, the government noted that in his position, he would not have executive and operational duties.

Furthermore, the spokeswoman noted that he had been practising as a notary and a commissioner of oaths for the past 14 years. Dr Castaldi Paris was also a public officer, as established by the Notarial Profession and Notarial Archives Act, and a former chairman of both the Majjistral Park and the Majjistral Action Group Foundation.

Questions on the selection process for each of the three posts and concerns over potential conflicts of interest to the Labour candidate remain unanswered.

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