The Malta Independent 23 February 2024, Friday
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Updated: Finance Minister denies that Malta is seeking 6-month extension for Moneyval review

Albert Galea Tuesday, 30 June 2020, 14:03 Last update: about 5 years ago

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has denied that Malta will be seeking a 6-month extension for Moneyval’s review of the country’s anti-money laundering regime.

Last September, Moneyval, the European branch of the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, ruled that Malta remains highly exposed to illicit finance but lacks the resources and infrastructure required to prosecute and seize assets from money launderers and the criminals they serve. Malta has until October to implement Moneyval's 58 recommendations for bolstering its campaign against financial crime to avoid inclusion on the group's "grey list" of high-risk jurisdictions.

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Being placed on the grey list would be a death knell for Malta's financial services industry especially.

On Tuesday, the Times of Malta reported that Malta may ask Moneyval for a 6-month extension, but the Finance Minister said this afternoon that this is absolutely not the case.

Scicluna said that he is part of the task-force focused on implementing Moneyval's recommendations, and that he had spoken to the other ministers on it who all confirmed that they knew nothing about asking for any extension.  He added that neither he nor the Prime Minister knew about what was reported.

"This is spin to make it seem like the governemnt is afraid that it won't meet its deadlines; it is not true at all", Scicluna said.

Scicluna said that Malta is prepared to satisfactorily meet the deadlines currently set in place - that deadline being October, after it was extended by three months by the FATF itself in light of the situation which Covid-19 brought about. The only extension that had been given to Malta was from June to October due to the Covid-19 situation. 

It comes after questions were arised recently by former Director of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit director Manfred Galdes, who commented on the threat of Malta being grey-listed by the Financial Action Task Force, saying "the outcome is inevitable,” and that Malta should be focusing on “softening the blow and getting out of the grey list within the shortest time possible."  A US embassy official also warned that Malta is unlikely to pass the assessment.

However Scicluna has insisted - even in comments last week - that Malta is doing all it can to avoid being grey-listed.

Meanwhile, Scicluna told The Malta Independent that the government can sustain financial measures to support businesses in the case of a new Covid-19 wave which would result in new restrictive measures being put in place.

However, he pointed out that "prevention is better than cure", and that the government has to be dedicated to not getting to a point where measures will have to be reintroduced. Scicluna was asked by this newsroom whether the government's financial war chest could cope with a renewed wave of Covid-19 which could result in the re-closure of shops and the airport amongst others.

He said that one must be realistic in acknowledging that a new wave hitting Malta may happen, as is happening in countries abroad, however he said that the government would like to see the money come into businesses from abroad and not from the government.

"If you ask me whether there are reserves to give a long breath or to have deep pockets: yes, there is, but we would like to use those reserves for investment and the increase of wealth rather than for this", he said.

Scicluna's comments come as Malta's airports re-open for tourists on Wednesday - the most significant step in the re-opening process of the country.Malta currently has 21 active cases of the virus out of a total of 670, and has not registered a new case for four days straight. 

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