Friday, July 6, 2018

Corruption Scandal on the Sale of Schengen Visas in Malta discussed in the European Parliament


Ivan Grech Mintoff (leader of the ECPM-Member Party Alleanza Bidla) presented in the Maltese court  a transcript of the testimonies of several Libyans who claimed that in 2015, they bought an unknown number of humanitarian medical visas from an official in the Office of the of the Maltese Prime Minister. These medical visas are not supposed to be sold. Following an agreement between Malta and Libya, they are issued for free. The documents submitted in the court also claim that Schengen visas were illicitly sold at the Maltese Consulate in Tripoli over a period of 14 months (in 2013 and 2014). In this period, 88000 Schengen Visas (300 visas per day including Saturdays and Sundays) have been sold. This illegal scheme could have earned the perpetrators millions of euros.  Although the Consulate in Tripoli has closed, it is unclear if this practice has stopped or is still continuing via other countries or Malta up to today. On the 27th of June, ECPM invited Mr Mintoff to the European Parliament. A press conference was organized by ECPM President MEP Branislav Škripek where he presented his evidence. Besides, he drew the attention to this issue in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE)    and in the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The information presented at the press conference is in line with the conclusions of the Members of the European Parliament Ana Gomes, Sven Giegold and David Casa of a visit to Malta in December 2017, following the  assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia 

The documents submitted by Mr Mintoff also claim that five Libyans are willing to testify that an aide to the Prime Minister, Mr Neville Gafà had asked them for money in exchange for the sale of the medical visas. However, despite the fact that the police were in possession of the receipts provided by the Libyans, they didn’t contact them, nor did they try to verify their claims. The new evidence brought forward corresponds with evidence that was earlier published by several international media outlets as well as by the murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. In fact, Daphne Galizia was investigating this scandal. Three years ago, she had also published information that Algiers issued Maltese visas to 6781 Algerian citizens in just 18 months (between 2014 and 2015). This information originated from an Algerian source.

The latest revelations are only one link in a chain of revelations regarding corruption in Malta. At the end of 2017, several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) belonging to the European Parliament Ad Hoc Mission on the Rule of Law in Malta visited the country and made worrisome discoveries. For example, the investigation on the assassination of Daphne Galizia is stalling. It is widely suspected that the plan is to keep the blame only among the three suspected bombers and to eventually let them go free, after they have served 20 months in detention. Moreover, as it is also the case with the scandal of the sold passports, the Police is not following all relevant leads to find out who is behind the assassination. The claim that they don’t have the necessary resources and that it is impossible to investigate everyone who was exposed by the murdered journalist. MEPs were also shocked to discover that despite the fact that several witnesses claimed that the Minister of the Economy was seen drinking with one of the alleged bombers before he was arrested, the police did not conduct a thorough investigation of these claims.

First, the persons that received these visas in Libya could be potential security threats and/or illegal migrants. Therefore, the illegal sale of medical and Schengen visas that was allegedly facilitated by highest ranking Maltese officials severely compromised the Schengen system. These visas have been sold in Libya – a country in which ISIS is undeniably present - and elsewhere.  During the press conference in the European Parliament, Mr Mintoff stated the following: “The apparent illicit sales of visas by persons close to the Prime Minister calls into question the security of the Schengen system. I hope and pray that no terrorists gained access to the EU with visas issued by Malta. Furthermore, I believe we have a duty to help those children and adults who were in dire need of medical treatment and didn’t get their medical visas because their families couldn’t afford the bribes and as a result were disabled or died."

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