The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

UPDATED: Minister Scicluna’s remark on money laundering ‘irresponsible’ – Delia; ministry replies

Saturday, 31 August 2019, 11:32 Last update: about 16 days ago

The dismissive remark made by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna to The Telegraph about money laundering in Malta is irresponsible and continues to negatively affect Malta’s reputation, Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia said this morning.

Scicluna was reported as saying that money laundering issues being faced by Malta are the same as what other countries are facing. This remark, Delia said on the party’s radio station, could seriously jeopardise Malta’s financial services sector.

Instead of saying that Malta recognised it had a money laundering problem and needed to tackle it, Scicluna dismissed it as something which is irrelevant. Instead, Delia contended, the government should admit the problem and say it is taking measures to tackle it.

With his answer, Scicluna was disrespectful to the many employees in the financial services sector and showed that he does not care, Delia said.

Delia said the price of property in Malta was increasing “in a surreal way”. Property which should accommodate three persons is now being offered to six at exorbitant prices. He said that there are cases where people used to pay €1,200 a year to rent a property and are now being asked for the same amount per month.

He said that all this is putting pressure on families. It is not true that people are better off today, he argued. There is a very small group of people who can really say that their lifestyle is better than what it was three years ago. The others have to struggle as the cost of living continues to go up, the latest being the increase in the price of fuel.

This means that people have to work overtime or get an extra job to make ends meet, Delia said.


Right of reply

In a right of reply sent on Thursday, the ministry took exception to Delia's comments, as follows.

Harming one’s credibility:

At a recent meeting the Leader of Opposition was quoted as saying that he was surprised if not shocked to find the Minister for Finance Professor Edward Scicluna telling a senior Sunday Telegraph journalist that money laundering pervades countries world-wide. This gives the impression that this state of fact is known to all who follow the media except the Leader of the Opposition.

However the Leader of the Opposition goes further and says that in the absence of the Minister not telling the journalist what the government was doing to combat money laundering, this is tantamount to irresponsible behavior and harmful to the financial services industry.

The Leader of the Opposition as usual ignores the harm he is doing to his own credibility because he conveniently and maliciously ignores the rest of the interview, where the Minister for Finance gives a blow by blow account of the government strategy and plan in area of Anti-Money Laundering.

This ignored paragraph below is indicative of the myopic view taken by the Leader of the Opposition to a delicate and sensitive subject just to give himself a subject to talk about irrespective of its veracity or relevance and harm to the industry. Most of all he ignores the harm to his reputation and the party he leads.

This quote is from that same interview referred to by the Leader of the Opposition.

There is a three year plan to ensure that institutionally Malta is up to 5o scratch, including a restructuring of the Malta Services Authority. In order to address this issue, Minister Scicluna referred to the set up of a new Financial Organised Crime Agency (FOCA) which is being established in order to investigate and prosecute crimes related to money laundering and financial crime: “With advice from the UK Home Office, a new Financial Organised Crime Agency is being established to investigate and prosecute the most serious cases of money laundering and financial crime. Apart from setting up such Agency, the Minister added that there are even more harsher punishments applicable for tax evasion offences: “Criminal penalties for tax evasion are meanwhile being beefed up.”

Through the aforementioned initiatives, it is very evident that unlike what Nationalist leader Adrian Delia is trying to portray, the Government is doing its utmost to address anti-money laundering in order to safeguard Malta’s reputation, strengthen its regulatory institutions and the financial industry as a whole.



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