The Malta Independent 18 November 2018, Sunday

The minister protesteth too much

Thursday, 6 September 2018, 10:18 Last update: about 3 months ago

Last April, the Financial Times carried a letter by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna responding to a significant amount of coverage about Malta and its financial services sector.

The minister felt that Malta's financial services sector had not been depicted accurately or fairly.

After describing the history of the financial services sector and its spread, the minister referred to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the case of the Pilatus Bank and described the 'stringent anti-money laundering and corruption initiative overseen by a permanent National Coordination Committee' deeply committed to preventing, detecting and prosecuting any criminal activity.

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As we had commented at the time, when we reproduced the letter, it was rather strange that the letter was not disseminated by the Department of Information.

Two weeks ago, the minister sent another letter to the Financial Times and this time the letter was disseminated by the DOI. But strangely this letter has so far, to the best of our knowledge, not appeared on the Financial Times. We carried this letter in our issue of 23 August.

This time, the minister defended the citizenship by investment programme offered by Malta in the context of the forthcoming report by the European Commission on 'citizenships for sale' in its drive against money laundering.

Having said this programme is the only one so far evaluated and approved by the European Commission, the minister then went off a tangent and referred to the allegation on the Egrant affair which claimed links with the prime minister's wife and said that the magisterial investigation had found that not only the allegation was unfounded but also based on forged documentation, signatures and witnesses.

A paper like the Financial Times does not take such matters lightly. At the same time, it does not accept to be browbeaten, not even by ministers.  The paper itself had already carried news reports about the Egrant allegation up to and including the magisterial conclusion.

What the minister was saying in his (unpublished) letter was to defend the Maltese IIP programme against any allegations linking such a programme with 'Russian dirty money' basing his argument on Maltese stringent checks and on the magisterial conclusions regarding the Egrant allegation.

Whether the Financial Times carries the minister's letter or not, the minister and the government as a whole will soon have more opportunities to defend Malta's financial services - the European Parliament commission, now enlarged, will soon be here again, and Moneyval, the Council of Europe special committee will soon be here for its scheduled meeting.

Writing letters to the papers, however influential, has its uses, although too much may be just too much for papers and their readers. More important than that, however, is to have ready answers to give and, much more important, to be ready to change.

We have no idea what has become of the National Coordinating Committee and that will surely be one issue where the committees coming to Malta will want to know about. So do we, for that matter.


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