Calls for EU to investigate Russian payments to Maltese dentist
The level of corruption with which Russian officials and oligarchs infected individual EU countries is shocking. The EU must conduct a comprehensive examination of Maltese "passport-for-money" schemes, writes famous Ukrainian journalist Tetiana Nikolayenko of Censor.Net
She underlines in her article https://censor.net/en that the level of corruption with which Russian officials and oligarchs infected individual EU countries are shocking. The purchase of EU passports is one such example. Such schemes flourished in many countries — Spain, Portugal, Greece, but even Cyprus and Bulgaria abandoned the "passport for money" schemes.
Malta remains the only country that continues to provide a cynical path to an "EU golden passport". For Russian oligarchs, Malta became a real back door to the EU. Public organizations appealed to both the Maltese authorities and the EU with a request to "stop passports sale to Russians", which Malta agreed to, but the EU has now taken Malta to court to halt the profit-making scheme.
But apparently, there were enough people in this country interested in Malta’s Individual Investor Program (IIP) remaining open to Russians, writes a Ukrainian journalist. The program was run by Jonathan Cardona, a close friend and associate of Chris Fearne, Malta’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health. Fearne worked for Minister for Energy and Health Konrad Mizzi, whom the US publicly banned him from entering for his "involvement in significant corruption". He was patronized by the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat , who was named "Person of the Year" in 2019 by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) due to the rise in crime and corruption in Malta. But even the resignation of the odious prime minister did not harm Fearne, who remained in this senior and influential position under the current prime minister Robert Abela.
Fearne did not hesitate to use the public service for his own interests. Malta’s National Audit Office criticized him for awarding a €163,000-a-year contract to his chief of staff (and, according to the local press, mistress) Carmen Ciantar, making her Malta’s highest-paid official. Ciantar’s daughter Celine, a graduate of the dental institute, was appointed to senior government positions from the student desk despite her lack of experience. But what is more interesting is not the petty corruption of this official, but the question of how certain politically-exposed Russian oligarchs who needed to get to Europe secured Maltese passports. One of these oligarchs was Leonid Levitin. While Cardona was in charge of this program, members of the influential Levitin family received Maltese citizenship.
Leonid Levitin is a brother of Igor Levitin, the former minister of transport of the Russian Federation, and now Putin’s assistant on transport and infrastructure issues in the administration of the Russian president. In the Russian and international press, there are hundreds of reports not only about his loyalty to the Putin regime, but also about Igor Levitin’s close personal friendship with Vladimir Putin. Levitin not only participates in the organization and implementation of Russian aggression against Ukraine, but he is also responsible for a very important part of it — relations with Iran, establishing a way to circumvent international sanctions through the supply of Iranian drones and missiles with which the Russian occupiers kill Ukrainians every day. The British press recently reported on Levitin’s visits to Iran, where he arranged for the supply of Russian helicopters to pay the Shaheds.
Levitin’s Maltese citizenship is now under closer scrutiny after a leaked bank transfer indicated that a certain Viacheslav Rezchikov – an Austria-based businessman known to be a fixer and business partner of the Levitin family – transferred €3.2 million euros to the daughter of Carmen Ciantar, Celine, in November 2019. At the time of the transfer, Celine had just graduated from the dental school and was waiting for an appointment to a government position, which was later given to her by Fearne. Under no circumstances it is possible to imagine that she, as a student, would grant a multimillion-euro loan, which Rezchikov was supposedly returning to her with this payment. Moreover, as indicated in the payment, 3.2 million euros is only part of the "debt" that Rezchikov had to return to the Maltese student, who was the daughter of the chief of staff of the deputy-prime minister of Malta. It is not known what was the exact total amount of "debt obligations". Neither the Maltese student, nor the Russian oligarch, nor the Russian fixer in Vienna reported about this loan.Advertisement
However, a day after receiving the payment in November 2019, Celine Ciantar posted this celebratory Instagram post with a photo of herself with her mom and the words: "2019 turned out to be quite a good year...":
And it is difficult to disagree with her. In 2019 the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project also concluded that Maltese achievement in corruption was such an impressive that prime minister of the country was "awarded" an annual corruption prize. As OCCRP mentioned in its report the country is "a small nation held hostage by large criminal interests", an island where "crime and corruption flourish with impunity", and a local journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who investigated the sale of Maltese passports to Russian oligarchs, was simply killed.
While the transfer itself took place in 2019, its ramifications could still play out today. Whether the money is still being spent or not, Kompromat on a close associate of the deputy prime minister of an EU state by the Kremlin gives the Russians a useful lever of influence, concludes Tetiana Nikolayenko in her article. Source: https://censor.net/en/n3422676
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