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Two Saudi families purchased 62 Maltese passports: Report | Saudi Arabia News

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Dozens of Saudi nationals belonging to two of the country’s wealthiest families became Maltese citizens – and thus citizens of the European Union – last year after paying millions of dollars to buy the country’s passports, the Times of Malta reported.

Malta launched its controversial cash for passports scheme in 2013 when the Maltese citizenship could be bought for 650,000 euros ($743,000).

The Maltese passport allows freedom of movement within the EU, since the holder of the passport has automatic European citizenship.

Earlier this week, Malta’s government gazette published the names of 62 Saudis belonging to the al-Muhaidib and al-Agil families, who were named by Forbes magazine as among the richest in the world.

The newspaper pointed out that the family members, most of them minors, became Maltese citizens in 2017, and might not have set foot on Maltese territory yet.

Wealthy families

Established in 1946, the al-Muhaidib Group deals in construction and foodstuffs. It is headed by Sulaiman Al-Muhaidib, whose fortune, according to Forbes, exceeds $3.4bn.

He acquired the Maltese passport along with 34 of his brothers, spouses and family members.

The al-Agil family, which owns the Jarir Group business empire, has a wealth of over $1.7bn and obtained 27 Maltese passports.

The Jarir Group, which is listed on the Saudi Stock Exchange, is controlled by brothers Mohammed, Abdulkarim, Abdulsalam, Abdullah and Nasser. All of them acquired Maltese passports.

According to the Times of Malta, the list published by the gazette does not provide information on the amount of money paid by the Muhaidib and Agil families for the passports.

The Malta authorities have refused calls to publish a list of foreigners who have obtained citizenship through payment, and instead publish the names of new Maltese citizens every year, including those who went through the long process of naturalization.

According to the Times of Malta, a large proportion of the buyers of the Maltese passport are from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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