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From scratch

Before trying to decipher what is true and what is not, we should really ask ourselves if we are facing a crisis that goes beyond the semantics of this political mud fight

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
2 May 2017, 10:36am
Compliance that took place at Nexia BT and Pilatus Bank led compliance officers to write reports and raise many questions in these reports
Compliance that took place at Nexia BT and Pilatus Bank led compliance officers to write reports and raise many questions in these reports
There is little doubt in my mind that the FIAU-leaked reports cover so many different aspects that many people are just believing what they want to believe.  

With all its ramifications, it is too complex an issue to follow for the average journalist. Let alone for Joe Bloggs.

Let us start to have a brief explainer.  

The FIAU is first of all an independent government agency established under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (Cap 373 of the Laws of Malta). It is the entity responsible for the collection, collation, processing, analysis and dissemination of information with a view to combating money laundering and the funding of terrorism. The Unit is also responsible for monitoring compliance with the relevant legislative provisions such as banks and other financial institutions. 

The unit was until some time ago a secretive organization which bound its staff against disseminating information, the penalties are high and they include prison. But this is not something that seems to have any value anymore. And I am sure the police are seriously reluctant to follow the path of prosecuting ‘whistleblowers’.

The truth is that the reports that have been leaked to the press show a pattern. And they find their roots in the post Panama debacle. Compliance that took place at Nexia BT and Pilatus Bank led compliance officers to write reports and raise many questions in these reports.

Most of the reports are unfinished or half-finished but some of them have conclusions. But it is impossible to know where one ends and the other does not. There is also difficulty in realizing what is fact or conjecture.  

At no point can I as a journalist condemn the leaking of such reports. I would have done the same. However I am not too sure if I would have been selective, surely my editors would have jumped on me if I had been.

The real question that we should be asking ourselves today is not about this story but more importantly about the agencies and executive arms.  

How will they function in the future? Four years ago every time or anytime there was an allegation, the politician would turn to the commissioner of police to investigate. Now it is the judiciary. Then as now, all the protagonists involved in the inquiries and investigations are dissected by the political parties.   

The same has happened with the FIAU, which has now lost any semblance of secrecy or ‘seriousness’.

Sister organisations of the FIAU abroad in Europe are never questioned and they are strictly independent.  

Politicians have a lot to answer for. And before trying to decipher what is true and what is not, we should really ask ourselves if we are facing a crisis that goes beyond the semantics of this political mud fight.

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan is the founder and co-owner of MaltaToday. He has reported on Maltese poli...
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