The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

TMIS Editorial: Indictment after indictment

Sunday, 15 September 2019, 11:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

Malta as a nation has suffered an awful lot in recent years simply because the government refuses to take action against its own errant members.

And this week's Moneyval assessment was yet another fine case in point. It is understood by this newspaper that Malta's assessment had been placed under a particularly strong microscope by the people at the Council of Europe, and it's no wonder considering recent experiences.

In fact, for the review of this report, Moneyval brought in experts from the US Treasury and the International Monetary Fund which, we are informed, is not exactly the norm.

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The question is, why? There are a number of factors feeding into this multinational and multi-fora introspection of everything financial when it comes to Malta.

And the reason is that there is concern because, as the adage goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

And as for the government's multifaceted public relations blitz leading up to the report's publication and in its direct aftermath, it would be rather concerning indeed if it were not hell bent on stopping it.

The problem is when it ignores it when any of its own gets involved. It is a very selective ring of people who, it seems, are allowed to get away with such misdeeds, and here we are not even going into the detriment to the state coffers any of these activities, which have all but been sanctioned by police inaction, may have meant.

You see, it is bordering on the absurd that the government boasts of how its newfangled plans are addressing money laundering head-on while those within its ranks carry on with total impunity even though the country's financial intelligence watchdogs have flagged some of the problems here.

And, as reported elsewhere in today's issue, the problem lies not with the financial watchdogs but, rather, when it comes to police prosecution.

In Malta, it is the police force that prosecutes on the basis of recommendations from the financial watchdog and, as we have said time and time again, the latter is getting an awful lot of flak because of the former's shortcomings.

In fact, the report found that "almost none of those investigations [by the watchdog] seem to lead to prosecutions [by the police]." It seems that somewhere down the chain of command and responsibility these tricky and sensitive investigations are being left by the wayside.

We will leave it up to readers to speculate why that is happening time and time again.

We understand there are magisterial inquiries underway into some of this but those, too, have their limitations.

And it is also futile to pick and choose recommendations from different fora, the ones that are easily or harmlessly implementable, but ignore everything else. And that is because every piece of the good governance mosaic needs to be put in its right place if we are to have a truly well functioning state and rule of law which, despite its multifaceted aspects, at the end of the day always come down to one common denominator: money.

And because we, as a nation, are looking to protect the status quo at all costs, even at the cost of the national reputation, we are being treated to one scathing indictment after another. We have been taken to task by the European Parliament's PANA Committee, its TAX3 Committee on financial crimes, its Rule of Law Monitoring Group and a raft of individual MEPs crying foul over our state of play, and now we have the Council of Europe's Venice Commission and Moneyval breathing down our necks.

And for the sake of what, exactly? Did we really think this would get better or go away one fine day once people get bored of hassling and harassing tiny Malta?  If so, think again.

The only thing that will set matters right, short of cutting loose those two albatrosses around the government's neck, would be to see to a real implementation of what we are being told that we need to do.

Mere cosmetics will no longer suffice, nor will the piecemeal implementations and a pick-and-choose approach - not just for the foreigners and their microscopes, but for us Maltese in particular because, at the end of the day, this is about fashioning the kind of country and democracy in which we want to live, raise our children and spend our twilight years.


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