Four months ago, a French TV programme alleged that representatives of Chetcuti Cauchi were caught on camera boasting of government relations and of using such relations to assist clients with dubious backgrounds.
In a statement, the company said that the raw footage now in hand directly addresses and discredits the last remaining allegations.
The programme was intended to portray Malta and the Maltese people as corrupt. 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 bad light.
On the contrary, the unedited footage reveals over an hour of meeting time of a senior partner of the firm honourably representing the Maltese jurisdiction, the Maltese legal system and the firm’s onboarding procedures as transparent, compliant and very selective when it comes to the reputation of the investors it seeks to attract.
“My wife and I have founded our legal practice on a mission to contribute to society with strong ethical and moral foundations. This was an attack on our firm’s core values of integrity and independence, by adversaries with an agenda to tarnish our country’s reputation at our expense. These past four months were therefore focused on two priorities: continuity for our clients who remain our first interest and concern; and fighting for the raw unedited footage, because only this would show how false these allegations were,” states Dr Jean-Philippe Chetcuti, Managing Partner of Chetcuti Cauchi.
When the allegations were made public, Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates launched a fully-fledged judicial action in the France Criminal court against the French media company responsible for producing the defamatory programme. The company’s resistance was described as “obstruction of process” and resulted in the Court imposing a daily fine.
It was only last December that the company succumbed to legal pressures and handed over the raw footage to Chetcuti Cauchi’s lawyers in France. This footage, alongside the November 2019 Report of the Regulator of the IIPwere offered to the inquiring magistrate. This Report crucially gave a clean bill of health to Chetcuti Cauchi’s citizenship work and found the IIP Agency’s conduct strict, professional and impartial.
“The Maltese media erroneously took these allegations as facts, basing their assumptions on tampered footage from the French journalist’s hidden-camera and giving little attention to the fact that the footage was entirely dubbed in French, when the meeting was conducted entirely in English. The media also failed to seek our version of events. The truth had to come out, we fought tooth and nail for that truth and today we are proud to say that it has come out,” added Dr Chetcuti.
“The spirit of the entire conversation was about the strict standards of due diligence employed in the IIP, yet the few seconds in which I reply to the journalist’s questions about how I know a minister were amplified and overstated. It is a misrepresentation of the entire conversation”, outlines Dr Chetcuti.
“The recording clearly shows me telling the journalist that clients facing rejection because of early due diligence problems, or criminal histories, are not even onboarded. The suggestion that we can lobby a minister to improperly push through the IIP application of someone rejected by the Malta IIP Agency or having a criminal record are categorically denied and this is confirmed by the raw footage now in hand.”
Footage also shows that when asked directly by the undercover journalist about the use of our professional relations with the authorities, the senior partner reacts “I am always very careful to explain to people like that, look it doesn’t mean I can get something done if it’s not. So that’s the way I operate, so to do it the right way, if there is a concern, address the concern. And if it’s not doable, we can be honest and say, I can’t help here.”
“We believe the complete evidence in hand finally removes all doubts about the firm’s excellent track record in representing reputable international investors to Malta. I would like to personally recognise the formidable resilience, loyalty and commitment of all our partners, associates and other professional staff across all the firm’s corporate and private client practices. We have suffered an injustice that has hit us even personally in many ways. This is a clear case of journalistic malpractice and a clear example of the pain and damage inflicted by unscrupulous activists and foreign journalists who engage in illegal and unethical behaviour to bring down a country. They are prepared to achieve their goals with any means,” concluded Dr Jean Philippe Chetcuti.
We are proud of the dedication and achievements of the firm in attracting to Malta some of the most prominent and reputable business families in the world. With renewed energy, we remain committed to excel in our strengths shaping and representing Malta as a prestigious investment destination for reputable and successful entrepreneurs, investors and families.
We believe in the importance of Malta remaining nimble and intelligent as a financial centre. In the competition between countries to attract the most successful, talented and reputable investors and businesses, we believe that Malta as a jurisdiction should also ensure it is mindful of the personal and familial factors that rank Malta high in its attractiveness. This inevitably includes Malta’s to-date successful investor migration laws.
The company also issued the full transcript of the conversation :
The following is a transcript of the TRUE conversation describing the due diligence standards applied by the Malta Individual Investor Programme:
“one thing that you need to look at in Malta is that .. our (CIP) Due Diligence Index outlines this: Malta ranks 1st in due diligence because it also takes into account Reputation … so even though they might be cleared or they might prove they’re innocent, it’s still bad press.”
“So one thing we offer … is an assessment, where we don’t just take an application, yes we can do it, apply, you’re clean. Coz being clean is not good enough.”
“One thing I will tell you is that the odds are… they (African countries) are treated as high risk already… so the starting point isn’t a pleasant one. People from these countries start with a disadvantage… So that’s why I think for them an assessment would be critical coz there will be cases where we will not waste time. In other cases, it just means we are better equipped because the best equipment is to know all the facts. And that is another way where we feel we are better positioned as a law firm, of course, they can open up.”
“So we basically offer our clients, if there is this kind of scenario of bad press and so on, we prefer if the client pays a much smaller fee for an assessment. This covers an EDDR that we get from a third party company.”
“They (MIIP Agency) conduct… engage two or three due diligence agents, … they have boots on the ground.”
“No, the best thing is to disclose it. It’s better to disclose it and explain it. If you get caught then sometimes you don’t even get a chance to explain, you get rejected. and you won’t even know why.”
“coz with a passport check we will immediately know what there is…. so we offer a free assessment at the outset, passport check, if it’s a complete no go, we don’t waste your time, we tell you, don’t waste your time.”
“No I think the fact that there is this (European) Expert committee with the specific objective to set minimum standards, its saying they are here to stay: we don’t mind them as long as they follow the rules, and that’s what we want. Malta doesn’t want them to be easy.”
“The OECD in its Report said we recognise the legitimate reasons for Citizenship Programmes, the right to move to a stable country, the right to set up a business in a different country, job opportunities, education for the kids and so on…. but they can be misused, so (OECD) we recommend to banks to apply these,…. check the country of birth… ask for his other passport. don’t accept just a Maltese residency or a Portuguese residency or a St Kitts Passport and you’re happy with that… you need to ask for where are you resident. In reality banks already knew this. They ask for a Certificate of Tax Residency, not a PP or a residence card. Anyone can have multiple residence cards, So it’s a lot of the same thing. The rules are there.”
“And the European Commission, … makes sure that the existing rules on money laundering, border control, security, the Schengen Information System all the checks… and existing money laundering rules are applied…”
“So at the moment, the European Commission set up an Expert Group where all the representatives of all these programmes are meeting. I’m supporting … the MIIP Agency, basically giving our (CIP) Due Diligence Report, our Index where Malta ranks 1st, and the points, the minimum standards, they asked Malta to suggest minimum standards because ironically they recogize Malta as a very good standard of Due Diligence.”
“Coz the reality is the Maltese programme is the cleanest of them all. They haven’t given any one passport that was found to be wrongly given. Of course, you cannot exclude that someone who got a Maltese passport 10 years ago, might do something wrong in the future … but in the past no.”
“No I think the fact that there is this (European) Expert committee with the specific objective to set minimum standards, that should apply across the board, its saying they are here to stay: we don’t mind them as long as they follow the rules, which is what we want. Malta doesn’t want them to be easy. Nobody wants criminals in their programmes.”
Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates