The Chamber of Advocates and human rights advocacy NGO aditus foundation described Frankie Sammut’s dual role as both a senior officer in the corps’ immigration department and the head of legal and compliance at a passport-selling company as a conflict of interest, this website can report.
Following publication of this website’s investigation about Sammut’s involvement in IWS Ltd, an immigration services company that is partly owned by disgraced former economy minister Chris Cardona, a request for comment was sent to both the Chamber of Advocates and aditus foundation.
The Chamber of Advocates represents the corps of warranted advocates admitted to the Bar of Malta, and it is recognised at law as the consultative and participatory representative of advocates in matters related to the organisation and administration of justice. aditus foundation is an NGO composed of a dedicated team of human rights lawyers and forms part of a pan-European network of NGOs focused on human rights advocacy.
When asked whether the Chamber is of the view that Sammut’s position specifically amounts to a conflict of interest, a spokesperson sent the following response:
“Assuming that the facts as reported are correct, the Chamber considers the position of Dr. Sammut as a conflict of interest and consequently, not acceptable. All lawyers should avoid any form of conflict of interest,” the spokesperson said.
In response to a more generic question about whether police officers working as lawyers amounts to a conflict of interest, the spokesperson added that this would not necessarily be the case since being a member of the police force should not preclude anyone from becoming a lawyer. However, the spokesperson maintained that “the profession should always be practised in a professional and ethical manner that does not prejudice one’s employer or client”.
“The Chamber reiterates its position, as it has done for the past 15 years, that the profession requires the implementation of the Lawyers Act to strengthen the regulation of the profession,” the spokesperson concluded, referring to the Chamber’s longstanding effort to lobby for the implementation of a comprehensive legislative framework for the profession it represents.
When the government presented a Bill in Parliament in 2021, the Chamber had complained of the fact that it was kept “in the dark” about the process behind it and that the end result was very different to what it had originally discussed with the government during the consultation process.
In response to this website’s request for comment, assistant director of aditus foundation Carla Camilleri stated that “it is clear that Inspector Sammut’s private legal practice selling citizenship and handling immigration issues is in direct conflict with his role as an immigration inspector”.
Citing the Code of Ethics which regulates lawyers, Camilleri further argued that Sammut’s conflict of interest clearly violates the code since advocates are ethically obliged to decline any appointments which may either lead to a conflict of interest or give the impression that they are able to make use of any connections they may have for the advantage of their clients.
“Is Inspector Sammut able to guarantee that confidential and sensitive information gathered by the Police is not being used for his or other’s private gain? Is he able to confirm that he is not using his wide-ranging Police authority to the advantage of his paying private clients?” Camilleri asked.
“Of course, the fact that the Government has not yet enacted a law that comprehensively regulates the legal profession is extremely worrying. With no clear regulation, situations such as these will simply continue to occur. We urge the Justice Ministry to stop dragging its feet and present a draft law for discussion and subsequent tabling in Parliament,” Camilleri added.
Part two of this investigation exposed how Sammut, together with two other police officers, took police commissioner Angelo Gafa’ to court following the commissioner’s decision to restrict police officers’ previously established right to provide legal services.
When asked about the commissioner’s decision, aditus’ assistant director voiced support for the police commissioner’s decision “as it seeks to protect the integrity of the entire police force”, reiterating the organisation’s serious concern about the fact that an immigration inspector is being simultaneously paid to give immigration advice.
In response to a request for comment about the fact that Sammut is involved in the sale of golden passports through Malta’s Individual Investor Programme (IIP), which is currently being legally contested by the European Commission, Camilleri described the practice of selling golden passports in general as “worrying” and “distasteful”, referring in particular to the stark contrast between the “relative ease” with which such a golden passport can be bought while others who have been “residing, working, and contributing to Maltese society have to wait for years”.
The European Commission is challenging Malta’s decision to keep the IIP scheme open as it considers it to be a breach of the European citizenship principle and the principle of sincere cooperation. The Passport Papers investigation had exposed clear evidence of how the programme’s legal requirements for genuine financial and social connections with Malta were being circumvented with minimal effort.
Meanwhile, a request for comment that was sent to the police force two weeks ago remains pending.