The Malta Independent 28 May 2023, Sunday
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Judiciary training, police reform will help Malta avoid money laundering sanctions - Minister

Neil Camilleri Sunday, 10 May 2020, 08:00 Last update: about 4 years ago

Training being given to judges and magistrates, together with reforms in the police force, will lead to a higher rate of prosecutions in the field of financial crimes, including money laundering, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis has told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

The minister was asked what training is being given to the judiciary and whether he believes Malta can avoid sanctions by the international anti-money laundering watchdog.


Malta country has been warned that it needs to step up its fight against money laundering and, while great strides have been made when it comes to legislation, we are still lacking when it comes to the prosecutions. While the regulatory authorities, namely the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) and the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) have mostly come in line with international expectations, the country is still lagging when it comes to investigations and prosecutions.

Last year, Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, gave Malta a fail grade in its assessment of anti-money laundering laws and their enforcement. It gave the country until this October to address the shortcomings found.

If Malta fails to address these shortcomings, Moneyval will recommend that Malta is placed in the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list. The FATF is the international agency governing anti-money laundering compliance. If Malta ends up in this list, it will face enhanced monitoring procedures and possibly even sanctions. As a result, the country will become less competitive and attractive to foreign investment.


Judiciary training ongoing

Zammit Lewis told this newspaper that training for the judiciary in the field of financial crime is ongoing.

The Judicial Studies Committee (JSC) is the body responsible for training given to members of the judiciary. It assists members of the judiciary in skills training and continued professional development mainly through seminars conducted by both local and foreign experts and speakers.  The committee is chaired by retired judge Michael Mallia.

A spokesperson for the Justice Ministry said various seminars were held in this field.  

In January 2018, the Malta Financial Services Authority organised an anti-money laundering seminar with the participation of foreign speakers. Ten members of the judiciary attended the seminar on a voluntary basis.

A seminar on anti-money laundering and combatting financing of terrorism was organised by the JSC in collaboration with external speakers in March of the same years. All members of the judiciary attended the event.

Six members of the judiciary attended a June 2018 seminar on Economic Crimes: Asset Recovery and Confiscation in the EU.

Another seminar is planned for September of this year. The seminar will target money laundering issues and is being organised in joint collaboration between the JSC and the Ministry of Finance, the ministry said. Attendance will be open to all members of the Judiciary.


Assignment of financial crime cases

The Justice Ministry spokesperson explained that the Chief Justice assigns money laundering cases to specific members of the judiciary to ensure consistency.

“Since 2018, the Chief Justice has assigned the money laundering cases and financing of terrorism cases to a member/s of the judiciary specialised in the field.  In fact, since 2018, the money laundering and finance of terrorism cases in the magistrates’ courts are assigned to one particular magistrate specialised in the field, whereby all cases are heard by this magistrate thus ensuring consistency of judgements.”

Furthermore, cases that fall under the Dangerous Drugs Ordnance and relate to the confiscation of property on the basis that it is derived from the commission of crime, which thus need to be heard expeditiously, are assigned to one particular judge who is specialised in the field.  

“Here again, the importance of this assignment of duties to specialised member of the judiciary, is to have consistency of judgements,” the ministry said.


Minister confident of reaching targets

Asked if the Justice Minister is confident that, through these efforts, Malta will be able to reach its targets and avoid the grey-listing, the spokesperson said: “the Minister is confident that with the support of the Prime Minister and the Government as a whole, he will be able to reach the set targets and increase prosecution rates. The Government is cooperating with foreign institutions and entities to make this possible.”

The Justice Minister, the spokesperson said, has already declared that an important reform to be conducted and completed by not later than the end of this year is the separation of the prosecutorial functions from the investigative functions of the Executive Police. This will be made possible by investing in the administrative capacity of the Public Prosecutor.

“The Minister has also made it amply clear that the law courts have to substantially increase their efficiency, especially in criminal prosecution and in the conclusion of Magisterial Inquiries.”

Last week, Acting Police Commissioner Carmelo Magri told this newsroom he is confident that efforts being made to bolster the police force’s Financial Crimes Investigation Unit will help Malta reach its anti-money laundering targets.

He said the unit has been beefed up with 8 officers and a number of civilian analysts, has procured modern equipment and will shortly be moving to a new headquarters in Hamrun.

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