The Malta Independent 3 February 2023, Friday
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TMID Editorial: Learning from mistakes

Friday, 25 November 2022, 08:14 Last update: about 3 months ago

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana made a promise earlier this week.

The government has learnt its lesson from the greylisting, and will not repeat the same mistakes, he said when he addressed journalists during the presentation of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) strategy for 2023-2026.

He pledged that the errors Malta committed will not happen again and, according to him, the way the government handled the greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) showed its commitment to combat money laundering and the funding of terrorism.

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Malta had been put on the grey list by the global anti-money laundering watchdog in June 2021 after deciding that the country was not doing enough to combat financial crime. The decision followed years of international criticism of Malta’s policymaking, including the selling of Maltese passports and the lack of legal action taken against top government officials suspected of corruption.

At the time, Prime Minister Robert Abela had said that the decision was unjust. To be fair to him, the FATF decision was a result of what had mostly started and happened under his predecessor Joseph Muscat, who resigned in late 2019 at the same time he was given the title of “man of the year” in corruption by an international consortium of journalists.

Malta was removed from the grey list one year later, in June 2022, after the FATF deemed that Malta had substantially completed the necessary reforms and appeared to have addressed the shortcomings that had been identified the year before.

There were instances when both Abela and Caruana, to defend themselves and their work, tried their best to distance themselves from the Joseph Muscat administration. They did not do it openly, as denouncing Muscat publicly would have not been well received by the Labour grassroots, but they had often referred to the calendar line which marked the changeover from Muscat to Abela as leader and prime minister.

What Caruana said last Monday is an admission, perhaps the first one, that mistakes were committed which led to Malta’s greylisting. Again, Caruana made no reference to Muscat and did not mention instances, but the fact that the finance minister acknowledged that errors had been made is one step forward.

It means that the government has now accepted that the greylisting was justified – unlike what Abela had said at the time.

Whether the government has learnt from its mistakes is, however, debatable. For one thing, there is no drive to bring people who are linked to the most notorious cases of corruption to book. We are still awaiting developments.

So, while it is good to note that the government – or at least the finance minister – has finally understood that the FATF decision to grey list Malta was, in fact, correct, we must insist that so much more needs to be done to really give the idea that the government wants to tackle rule of law issues that have put Malta in so much bad light in the past years.

 

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