The Malta Independent 26 May 2019, Sunday

ARB: the setting up of a new structure

Owen Bonnici Friday, 7 December 2018, 07:35 Last update: about 7 months ago

One of the most delicate aspects of the justice reform was without doubt the setting up of the Assets Recovery Bureau (ARB).

The setting up of the fully functioning ARB is not only needed for the better administration of justice in Malta, but also an obligation coming from EU directives. During the past legislature, we undertook a whole legislative process for the setting up of the ARB in full conformity of EU directives. Once this was set up, the bureau was given more tools to be able to carry on its functions – another step towards the fight against organised crime, providing a better and safer environment to all.

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The functions of the Asset Recovery Bureau can be divided into three main categories: the tracing of assets, asset Management and assets Disposal. Since its very first day, this Board’s priorities were clear and focused on delivering a functioning Asset Recovery Office by 2018.

A number of provisions contained in the Asset Recovery Bureau Regulations were brought into force on 1st October 2017 as to enable the setting up of the necessary structures of the Bureau’s Directorate - including its capacity to be able to start functioning.

Within the beginning of 2018, the Bureau was in a position to commence with the recruitment of Bureau Officers, establish its own administrative offices, ascertain standards of procedures and provide for training opportunities in asset tracking and asset management, in cooperation with the Criminal Asset Bureau in Ireland and the Asset Management Office in Rotterdam.

Criminal activities are mostly profit driven and hurting the criminal where it hurts most is a deterrent, as confiscation and recovery of proceeds from crime deprive them of what they have worked for. The fight against criminality can only be won if those who made money out of illegal activities lose their illegal gains. Crime does not pay.

Confiscation of assets resulting from crime activities is the European Union’s strategic priority in its fight against crime and reflected in the EU’s Internal Security Strategy in Action. Substantial efforts took place in this area, mainly by the establishment of Asset Recovery Officers across the EU Member States, bringing cooperation amongst these Asset Recovery Offices. A Directive on confiscation, adopted in 2014, is now being transposed and implemented in all Member States.

In Malta, the Asset Recovery Bureau Regulations were promulgated by Legal Notice 357 of 2015, in conformity with the EU directives to establish the Asset Recovery Bureau, with the aim of tracing, recovering and managing the proceeds of organised crime. This development was another important step in the fight against organised crime.

This was strengthened further in August this year when the Asset Recovery Bureau was given wide-ranging powers to not only confiscate, but also sell the proceeds of criminal activity, with funds from the sale used for the good of the community.

As Minister for Justice, I am striving and am committed to keep ensuring that the Asset Recovery Bureau is given the necessary tools to be able to work effectively to be able to carry out its duties successfully.

The Asset Recovery Bureau has been built from scratch over the past year to combat crime and will do its utmost to exercise its functions and powers in a professional and fair manner. I thank the Bureau, headed by Chairperson Judge Emeritus Dr Joseph David Camilleri for its invaluable input and precise work that it is doing.

 

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On a totally different subject, restoration pays.

Incessant work is being done in all sectors falling under my remit, not least in the culture sector, which also includes the vast restoration works being carried out all over the islands.

Historic building by street niche, palace by fortification, we are restoring our prized heritage. As readers have probably understood by now, restoration is a topic that is close to my heart. I reiterate that as soon as I took up office and became responsible for Culture, I embarked on this never-ending project to restore our heritage.

Restoration takes up many forms, spearheaded by the need and responsibility to save our inheritance in this sector for posterity.

One of the schemes my team and I came up with is the Restoration Works Scheme for Local Councils. This was first launched in 2015 with the aim of assisting local councils in the restoration of buildings and other immovable monuments of historic and/or artistic value located within their delineated boundaries. 

On an annual basis, the local councils of Malta are given the possibility of submitting project proposals for the consideration of a Selection Committee appointed by Government to evaluate applications. Through its implementation, the scheme is providing meaningful assistance over the years to different localities. 

Fourteen local councils (San Ġwann, Ħamrun, Santa Luċija, Luqa, Ħaż-Żebbuġ, Marsaskala, Sliema, Żurrieq, Birkirkara, Siġġiewi, Għargħur, Paola, Mqabba and Safi) have already benefitted from the scheme since its inception. The value of the individual projects executed under the scheme varies between €25,000 to €60,000 depending on the scale of the monument/ building and the nature of the restoration interventions involved.

Through this scheme, we have seen chapels, street niches, historic buildings and other sites restored and are now the pride of the localities they are situated in.

Past works include the Hompesch Gate at the entrance to Zabbar, the façade of the old Parish Church in Marsaskala - the Sant’Anna Chapel, the bridge in Manuel Dimech Street, Sliema and the Archangel’s Niche in Żurrieq.

I commend the Restoration Directorate, as with all the major restoration projects going on around the island, the dedication of the directorate’s workers headed by Norbert Gatt, is beyond limits.

One has to keep in mind that currently there a number of major projects, mostly in Valletta - the main one being the work on the Presidential Palace undertaken jointly with Heritage Malta. Works are also at hand on the Ospizio Bastions in Floriana.

Back to the Restoration Works Scheme for Local Councils. Five localities, Marsaxlokk, Birżebbuġa, Santa Venera, Ħal Għaxaq and Manikata (Mellieħa) will be benefitting from this year’s scheme - issued by the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government, through the office of the Restoration Directorate in collaboration with the Department for Local Government. 

Through this year’s call for applications the following monuments will be restored: Christ the Redeemer Niche in Marsaxlokk, St. George’s redoubt in Birżebbuġa, St. Joseph’s chapel in Santa Venera, Santu Kristu chapel in Ħal Ghaxaq, and the old church of Manikata in Mellieħa.

In the coming weeks the Restoration Directorate will take in hand the documentation phase leading to the preparation of all drawings and documents required to be submitted for the Planning Authority’s approval. It is envisaged that restoration works on the various sites will be taken in hand towards mid-next year.

I strongly beleive that it is essential that we preserve our heritage. This is one of the main characteristics that represent our country’s rich history, and we are doing our best to excel in the preservation of such symbols. All these restoration works that are being conducted aid to improve what our country can offer, and this clearly shows how much culture is a principal economic stimulus.

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