The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Malta doing all it can to avoid FATF grey-listing, Edward Scicluna says

Albert Galea Friday, 26 June 2020, 12:39 Last update: about 17 days ago

Malta is doing all it can and the government is working on all fronts for the country to avoid grey-listing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said on Friday.

A US embassy official warned earlier this week that Malta is unlikely to pass the Moneyval test come October, while former FIAU director Manfred Galdes said that Malta failing the assessment is “inevitable”.

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Failing the assessment by Moneyval will mean that the Maltese jurisdiction will be grey-listed by the FATF – something which would be a death-knell to Malta’s significant financial services industry.

Asked for his reaction, Scicluna said that the government is not resigned to being grey-listed, and is working “night and day” to draft and implement the necessary legislation.

He noted work such as the announcement yesterday that real estate agents need to be licensed and regulated, adding that a similar situation will soon exist for lawyers as well.

He also noted that Cabinet has approved a new law related to the Asset Recovery Bureau. Maltese law did not permit authorities to seize the assets of those who are suspected of criminality before a sentence is handed down, something which may take years.

Scicluna said that the law will base itself on European and American models where authorities independent from the police can seize assets if there are major suspicions that a person owns things which they do not have the means for.

“If you see someone unemployed on social benefits who says that they don’t have an income, and they have a Ferrari, then one can take action without there being criminal charges”, Scicluna said before noting that a person simple has to prove where they got the income from for their assets. 

Scicluna also noted the changes which new Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa made in his first day on the job – a reference to his appointment of Alexandra Mamo as head of the Economic Crimes Unit instead of Ian Abdilla.

Scicluna said that the government is in the process of drafting an agency which will focus on major financial crimes across multiple jurisdictions.  This agency will see the FIAU have an investigative function as well, Scicluna said.

“We are doing our best. I am sure that the FATF will see that there is a genuine effort by Robert Abela’s government and that he means business”, Scicluna said.

Asked directly about the comments made about Malta’s prospects, Scicluna used the old glass half-full and glass half-empty adage.

“Everyone has his opinion; this is like the glass half full and half empty scenario. I like to see that it is filling up, while others are saying that is has not yet been filled,” Scicluna said.

He said that it is a fair comment but noted that we should not be bandaging our head before it cut.

He said that genuine effort is being done to show that the work is being carried out seriously for the country to gain from, and not merely to pass an exam and then forget about everything.

Moneyval’s final assessment on Malta will take place next October.

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