The Malta Independent 3 December 2021, Friday

Malta has not submitted any actionable reports to European Public Prosecutor in five months

Albert Galea Wednesday, 27 October 2021, 13:53 Last update: about 2 months ago

Malta has failed to submit any actionable reports to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office in the five months that the office has been set up, Laura Kovesi, who is leads the office, said on Wednesday.

In a press conference in Valletta, Kovesi said that while all national authorities have a duty to inform the EPPO about any criminal conduct of a financial nature, Malta had only submitted two such reports in the past five months – neither of which were in the EPPO’s jurisdiction.

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These reports were of an alleged VAT fraud of less than 10,000 – below the EPPO’s threshold for such offences – and to 10,000 in smuggling, which is not in the office’s competence.

Kovesi explained that all national authorities have a duty to inform her office about any criminal conduct of a financial nature, while private parties, NGOs and other organisations can also submit such reports, which are then analysed by the EPPO and its prosecutors.

She said that around 2,300 criminal reports have been received from all over Europe, and that the EPPO has opened over 380 investigations in various countries. 

However, only two of these reports came from Malta.

“We have been operational for give months and there has not been a single EPPO investigation launched in Malta.  How can this be?,” she lamented.

“There can be delays and misunderstandings, after all there is no precedent for this office – it’s something which has never been attempted before.  But without detection there cannot be investigation, prosecution, or judgement.  We cannot and should not only rely on the work of investigative journalists for such reports,” she said, noting that the EPPO actively follows the media to see whether there are reports of wrongdoing in countries.

Kovesi said that she had visited the National Audit Office, Police Commissioner, Attorney General, Internal Audit and Investigations Division, and the FIAU where she had “very open and constructive discussions” in the course of her stay in Malta.

“White collar crimes are under reported, under-estimated and often even tolerated. Like with all other citizens of EU, if Maltese citizens have any knowledge of relevance for us, they can report it directly through our website,” Kovesi said.

“Everyone is equal in front of the law and we make no distinction in who we investigate,” she added.

Asked about whether the thresholds for crimes - 10,000 in the case of financial fraud, and 10 million in the case of VAT fraud – were a factor in Malta’s under-reporting, Kovesi said that she did not believe this to be the case.

She said that the EPPO is there not to investigate petty crimes, but for major crimes concerning organised crime and cross-border crimes.

“I don’t think Malta is a clean country in how money is spent,” Kovesi said, coming back to the lack of reports received.

She quantified the remark by noting that no country is fully clean in how money is spent, and that there are studies which back this up.

“The fact that there is such a low detection rate doesn’t mean that there is no crime,” Kovesi said.

Photo: Miguela Xuereb - Newsbook

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