Revocation of Maltese Citizenship under Maltese Law
A revocation order is an order issued by the Minister notifying the person concerned in writing that an order of deprivation will be issued in his or her regard and that he or she has the right to an inquiry.
The Maltese Citizenship Act contemplates two modes of loss of citizenship, namely renunciation and revocation of Maltese citizenship, also referred to as deprivation. Where a citizen of Malta is of full age and capacity, he or she may renounce their Maltese citizenship by making a declaration to this effect. In the case of deprivation, it is the Minister responsible who is empowered to issue an order of revocation of Maltese citizenship to the person concerned.
Ministerial Revocation of Maltese Citizenship
A revocation order is an order issued by the Minister notifying the person concerned in writing that an order of deprivation will be issued in his or her regard and that he or she has the right to an inquiry. Inquiries are determined by the Committee of Inquiry following referral of the case by the Minister. The legal effect of the revocation of Maltese citizenship is that a person ceases to be a Maltese citizen once the Minister responsible makes an order to such effect. Essentially, deprivation of Maltese citizenship may only ensue in respect of persons who acquired Maltese citizenship by registration or naturalisation.
Grounds for Revocation of Maltese Citizenship
The Maltese Citizenship Act stipulates five exhaustive grounds through which the Minister may decide to deprive a citizen from his or her Maltese citizenship. This means that revocation of Maltese citizenship is subject to the Minister’s discretion who shall give a notice in writing to the person concerned prior to the issuance of an order so as to inform him or her of the ground on which deprivation is proposed to be made. Such notice shall also inform such person of the right to an inquiry.
However, there is a legal obligation on the Minister not to issue orders for the deprivation of any person who, having been sentenced to a punishment restrictive of personal liberty for a term of not less than twelve months, may become a stateless person. A committee, known as the Committee of Inquiry, is the body that inquires into cases to it by Minister of aggrieved persons referred. Decisions by the Committee of Inquiry are generally taken by a majority vote and the decision shall be reduced in writing.
Deprivation may be either because:
- citizenship was acquired by means of fraud, false representation or the concealment of any material fact or
- such citizen has shown himself or herself by act or speech to be disloyal or disaffected towards the President or the Government of Malta or
- such citizen had engaged, unlawfully traded or communicated with an enemy or been engaged in or associated with any business that was motivated by willingness to assist an enemy in that war or
- such citizen has, within seven years after becoming naturalised or registered as a Maltese citizen, been sentenced in any country to a punishment restrictive of personal liberty for a term of not less than twelve months; or
- such citizen has been ordinarily resident in foreign countries for a continuous period of seven years and during such time, he or she has neither been in the service of the Republic or of an international organisation of which the Government of Malta was a member nor given a notice in writing to the Minister of his or her intention to retain citizenship of Malta.
The five grounds on which a deprivation may take place may be divided into two main categories. The first category comprises the first ground whereby the person who is the subject of deprivation was, in fact, never entitled to the acquisition of Maltese citizenship but for his or her mala fede. On the other hand, the second category incorporates the other four grounds whereby deprivation is the result of conduct that is not conducive to the public interest. This means that such person would have been eligible at the time of the acquisition of Maltese citizenship but later becomes disqualified.
Can IIP Citizenship be revoked?
A highly politicised issue, the Malta Individual Investor Programme had initially seen the Maltese parliamentary opposition threatening a revocation of the programme on their return to government in future, a position discontinued since the European Commission’s endorsement of the IIP. Recent public pronouncements by constitutional law authorities have shed more light on the legal basis, if any, of such political statements.
Professor Kevin Aquilina is Associate Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Laws at the University of Malta. Professor Ian Refalo is former Dean of the Law Faculty, heads the Department of Public Law and is a famed constitutional law expert. Prof Aquilina and Prof Refalo draw attention to very serious human rights issues surrounding the withdrawal of citizenship simply by virtue of its issue as part of a programme enacted by an act of parliament and without any other legal foundation specific to every beneficiary on a case by case basis.
We also spoke to immigration law expert, Dr Jean-Philippe Chetcuti, a prominent advisor to high net worth individuals on matters of immigration and international taxation. Dr Chetcuti maintains that the grounds that the Minister may apply to order the revocation of Maltese citizenship are clearly laid down by law (described above) and do not include an arbitrary decision to revoke citizenship en masse solely on the basis that it was issued under any particular programme. Clearly, a failure to disclose material facts which would have precluded a citizen from qualifying under the IIP or a misrepresentation of facts as well as any other acts contemplated by law would be the only grounds for a revocation of Maltese citizenship. Ultimately, once Maltese citizenship is granted to a person as prescribed by law, such person becomes as much a Maltese citizen as any other Maltese citizen.
Reference materials on Maltese Citizenship