The Malta Independent 23 October 2019, Wednesday

New agency to investigate and prosecute most serious cases of money laundering, financial crime

Thursday, 27 June 2019, 19:45 Last update: about 5 months ago

The government will be creating two new bodies to fight against financial crime: a Prosecutions Unit within the Police Force and an office of State Advocate, to be the legal advisor to Government, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said today.

The de-coupling of the civil advisor function from the Office of the Attorney General and the new Prosecutions Unit will lead to a more specialised prosecution team and to an objectively fairer system, Scicluna said.

“With this new structure, the decision to prosecute will be taken by the Office of the Attorney General, other than in minor cases, where the decision to prosecute will remain with the police. The police will retain their role in investigating crime, but the Attorney General will also be given power to instruct the police to investigate a crime and request timely updates on the progress of investigations. These measures are provided in the State Advocate Bill which is currently at Committee Stage before Parliament and which Government intends to have enacted by mid-July.” 

In addition, Scicluna said, the Cabinet of Ministers has this week approved a further major reform to strengthen law enforcement against organised financial crime with the creation of a Financial Organised Crime Agency.

A delegation led by the Minister for Finance has held meetings with the UK Home Office on learnings from a more established partner in order to determine the scope of the new agency. In the meantime, the Asset Recovery Bureau will be granted additional powers to strengthen its effectiveness. 

Minister for Finance Edward Scicluna said, “Organised financial crime is an international scourge that knows no borders and can only be eradicated through a joined-up approach between countries. In Malta, we are determined to play our part in making this happen. That is why we are throwing ever more resources at the problem and enacting legal and regulatory reforms to transform the fighting capabilities of our institutions and regulators. We have already made substantial changes to the financial regulatory framework in Malta, through investment in the MFSA and FIAU, and through the crucial coordinating role of the new National Crime Committee. 

“Today we go further, announcing sweeping new reforms that clearly outline and demarcate investigative and prosecutorial responsibilities, that will, we believe, increase investigations that result in prosecutions.

 “The establishment of the new Financial Organised Crime Agency will enhance these domestic reforms by establishing a dedicated team to coordinate efforts with our international partners. In due course, Malta would welcome the establishment of a permanent pan-European institution that would coordinate financial crime fighting across the EU and beyond.”

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