VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — European lawmakers are expressing concern about a widening scandal in which hundreds of Libyans allegedly received Maltese residency permits in a corruption scheme — giving them free access to any EU country and possibly compromising European security — and another in which large numbers of Algerians received visas through Malta's consulate.
Members of the European Parliament are pressing the European Commission to determine whether practices by Maltese authorities might be leaving Europe vulnerable, as a historic wave of migration hits the continent. The latest concern was officially raised by a French EU parliamentarian on Tuesday at an EU migration summit hosted by Malta that ended Thursday.
A Maltese accountant is on trial here for alleged fraud and falsification of documents suspected of allowing Libyan clients to obtain residency permits. Prosecutors alleged the defendant, who denies wrongdoing, created hundreds of fictitious companies to make it appear the Libyans had businesses in Malta. Last month, three employees of a Maltese government agency responsible for issuing residence permits received suspended sentences after admitting to receiving bribes from the defendant from January through August this year.
Malta and Libya have decades-old business ties.
In a separate development, Malta's conservative opposition party complained that some 7,000 Algerians were granted Schengen visas, which allow holders to travel freely through Europe's border-free zone, by the Maltese consulate in Algiers over the last 18 months. The opposition contended that Malta has been too loose in granting the visas, and noted that the Maltese consul in Algeria was brought back to Malta a few weeks before the scandal broke. Maltese media have reported that visa applicants were told to pay extra fees to ensure swift processing of their application in what was suspected of being a money-making scheme.
Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat, has brushed off the scandal, saying that Malta has also denied visas to about half of the Algerian applicants.