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[LIVE] MEPs lead mission to Malta today on rule of law and financial system

Following a resolution adopted in November expressing concerns on the rule of law in Malta, an EP delegation will visit on a fact-finding mission

massimo_costa
Massimo Costa
30 November 2017, 6:45am
A joint EP delegation from Panama Papers and Civil Liberties committees, led by MEP Ana Gomes, in Malta today for meetings with journalists, activists, government representatives
A joint EP delegation from Panama Papers and Civil Liberties committees, led by MEP Ana Gomes, in Malta today for meetings with journalists, activists, government representatives
19:10: Pilatus Bank CEO Hamidreza Ghanbari, accompanied by the bank’s chief financial officer, said the meeting with MEPs was “very substantive and positive:, He maintained this was the first time they had a chance to give the facts. “We remain keen to have an open dialogue with all the stakeholders.”
17:35: Tweet from Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola
17:03: Here's a tweet from Labour MEP Miriam Dalli
16:36: On leaving the meeting, which lasted almost two hours, Ferris' lawyer Jason Azzopardi said that Ferris could not comment on what was said. Regarding Carmelo Abela, who had said that what Ferris was saying had an effect on his credibility, Ferris said that once the truth came out, the nation would question Abela's integrity. Asked about police protection for Ferris, Azzopardi said Ferris had asked him to put forth the message that he had not been seeing or feeling the presence of police protection.
15:56: Tweet from David Casa MEP (EPP)
15:30: Letter from MEP Marlene Mizzi (Labour) to Manfred Weber:
15:23: Here's a tweet from CSN spokesperson and PN councillor Michael Briguglio
15:22: Minister for Justice Owen Bonnici has said former MEP and former Italian minister Antonio di Pietro has accepted an invitation for a courtesy visit, before his address to the Civil Society Network demonstration on Sunday.
14:56:

Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi has taken issue with questions of safety raised by EEP head Manfred Weber. Here is the letter in full:

I refer to the letter you sent to President Tajani, and published in the media, soliciting his intervention so that the MEPs delegation sent to Malta will have “suitable protection “during their visit.

I understand that you are soliciting different “suitable” protection from that which protocol provides to MEP delegations visiting other EU member states. Allow me to state with all due respect that this is shameful letter, offensive to the State of Malta and to the majority of Maltese people, because it is a misrepresentation of the factual situation in Malta.

I suspect that you are repeating what you have been told by persons who only have partisan interest at heart. I would have expected a more responsible behaviour from a head of a major political group.

Malta has held the Council Presidency for the first six month of this year (Jan - June 2017 ) when hundreds of MEPs and EU officials visited our country. Nobody complained about any safety issues, nor is anyone aware of any fear felt during anybody’s stay in the country. On the contrary, Malta passed this test with flying colour from all points of view.

May I also remind you, lest you have forgotten, that your Party, the EPP, chose to hold its Congress in Malta in March 2017 . Again nobody has flagged an issues which concerned fear or safety - even though one of the topics discussed in the congress was security policies.

Apart from these events Malta also hosted the ACP -EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly as well as substantial number of other conferences and visits from foreign dignitaries. We are yet to hear of the “fear” they felt for their safety during their visit to Malta.

Irrespective of your erroneous statements or impressions, Malta has not changed since then. So I fail to understand your fear for the safety of the MEP delegation. While I wish the MEP delegation a successful visit, I have no doubt that they will feel, and be safe.

The atrocious murder of Mrs Caruana Galizia has shocked all Maltese persons and rest assured that we all want justice to prevail. Nobody needs to tell us so.

But to exploit this assassination to throw aspersions on a country, when atrocious acts, unfortunately happen everywhere, including your own country, is shameful and irresponsible

You are evidently parroting information you have been given. May I respectfully recommend that instead of using someone else’s mind to produce such letters, you use your own independent mind? If you had done so, I am sure you would not have produced such offensive literature with regards to the State of Malta and the Maltese people.

14:45: James Debono from The Shift News emerges from the meeting
14:37: James Debono, a journalist for The Shift News, said that it Was “apparent that MEPs think there is a serious problem… We discussed issues ranging from Azerbaijan's interest in Malta, to the jobs given by the government prior to the June election and the serious institutional issues of the past years.”
14:23:
13:09: A short while ago, Attorney General Peter Grech emerged from Europe House and was asked by journalists about his meeting with the MEPs: “I didn’t have any difficulty meeting the Euro MPs. I of course explained that I performed my duties according to law and according to the interests of the Maltese public and according to the Maltese constitution. I think it was a positive meeting and at least an occasion for me to explain the legal position,” said Grech. Asked about whether he had been asked about the police and his office’s failure to follow-up with investigations into the revelations from the Panama Papers scandal, Grech said it would not be prudent for him to enter into political controversy. “My role as the occupier of constitutional office prevents me from doing that. I have to act with integrity as I have done for the last 34 years, in the interest of all Maltese society.
12:57: Statement from the Civil Society Network

Five days ago the Civil Society Network asked Minister Edward Scicluna to inform the public whether he had any involvement, even if indirect, in the decision to terminate the employment of FIAU officials Jonathan Ferris u Charles Cronin immediately after the result of the last general election. The said individuals had until a few days after the last June election been heading the financial analysis section and the compliance section of the FIAU respectively.

CSN’s demand was made in view of the fact that the termination of the said officials’ employment was made in the same period of time that Minsiter Edward Sciluna had publicly asked whether FIAU reports had been written with the intention of being leaked.

Whereas the Network notes that even though five days passed Minister Edward Scicluna still did not answer its question, CSN declares that it will insist on Minister Scicluna to give an explanation on such an important matter.

For this purpose, by means of this press release the Civil Society Network is requesting the help of members of the House of Representatives to ask on its behalf the following Parliamentary Question to Minister Edward Scicluna:

Can the Minister of Finance state:

(i) whether he was ever involved in a conversation (whether in person or by means of any other form of communication) with any member of the Board of Governors or with any official or employee of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit or with any member of the Police Force in which were mentioned the former Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit officials Jonathan Ferris and Charles Cronin or any one of them;

(ii) whether he ever received from any member of the Board of Governors or from any official or employee of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit or from any member of the Police Force any communication in which the former FIAU officials Jonathan Ferris and Charles Cronin or any one of them were/was mentioned; and

(iii) whether he ever requested (whether directly or indirectly) from any member of the Board of Governors or from any official or employee of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit or from any member of the Police Force any information in relation to former FIAU officials Jonathan Ferris and Charles Cronin or any one of them; and

(iv) if such conversation/s and communication and/or request took place, whether such conversation and/or communication and/or request took place before or after Jonathan Ferris and Charles Cronin were informed that their employment with FIAU was being terminated and the name and surname of the person/s with whom such conversion and/or communication took place or to whom the said request was made?

12:54: You can read the letter from EPP leader Manfred Weber to Antonio Tajani here
12:53: Statement from David Casa MEP

David Casa MEP, Head of the Maltese Delegation of the EPP Group and Member of the European Parliament mission to Malta which will take place on Thursday and Friday, said: “The European Commission has not acted even though it is obvious that the main pillars of democracy in Malta have collapsed. It is now on the European Parliament to stress the alarming situation of the rule of law in Malta. The EPP Group has called on the Commission to act in a Resolution. This week, with my colleagues from committees responsible for anti-money laundering and the rule of law, we will demand answers from Prime Minister Muscat to a simple question: how can an independent investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and corruption cases leading to the highest political levels be guaranteed in a country where institutions have been politically captured so as to save the skin of people in power?”

In anticipation of the mission and in light of recent threats to the lives of several Members of the European Parliament for speaking out on the rule of law in Malta, the EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber sent the President of the European Parliament a letter this week expressing his concerns about the safety of MEPs. In the letter, the Chairman stressed that recent serious threats against European politicians in Malta is not something the Parliament should take lightly. As the delegation to Malta will be carrying out work in such an environment, Manfred Weber underlined the need for suitable protection for the MEPs and urged President Tajani to remind the Maltese authorities of their duty to protect MEPs and allow them to carry out their duty free of fear.

12:52: PN leader requests Prime Minister to offer protection to Jonathan Ferris and family. You can read the story here.
10:32: At 11:30am, we will be covering a press conference by Opposition leader Adrian Delia outside the House of Representatives.
10:32: A quick update on our story here on Nexia BT's reply to MEPs with the following comment from Brian Tonna added to the story:

“Upon receiving the delegation’s invitation, we informed the delegation that Nexia BT shall collaborate fully and to the extent possible. However, because of the need to ensure that we observe our legal obligations, we advised the delegation that we considered it more appropriate to receive and to reply to questions put to us in writing.

We therefore invited the delegation to consider putting their questions to us in such manner and we committed to make ourselves available to provide our replies and answer any follow-up questions as may be necessary. Until now, we have not been informed of the delegation’s position in this regard.

As anticipated and consistently with the last visit of the delegation, my reply to them has been within seconds of being sent, leaked to the local "Independent media". As were their questions and my replies. I will let your esteemed readers draw their own conclusions.”

08:11: If you want to see who will be speaking to MEPs you can get all that information right here.
08:09: And Labour MEP Alfred Sant writes here that some of the MEPs have already reached their conclusions on Malta, and meeting activists who are prejudiced towards the government.

Sant insists that MEPs are interested in their own partisan agenda and ignore the government’s large mandate, and wants to defend the Maltese financial services system which he says contributes some 20% to economic growth.
08:07:

First up, a reaction from one of the MEPs who will be here today, German MEP (Greens) Sven Giegold:

“Just before the start of the mission of a delegation of the European Parliament to investigate the rule of law in Malta, the audit, tax and advisory firm Nexia BT has transmitted its rejection to meet with Members of the European Parliament. “It is outrageous that Nexia BT once again refuses to meet Members of the European Parliament on their mission to investigate the rule of law in Malta. The audit, tax and advisory firm is at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal. With the help of Mossack Fonseca, Nexia BT set up offshore companies for Minister Konrad Mizzi and prime minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri. Being charged with the management of the Citizenship for Investment Programme, Nexia BT is also involved in the allegations of kickbacks received from the sale of Maltese passports.

“While the Maltese government seems to have understood that meeting our delegation is a first step to restore the reputation of Malta, Nexia BT keeps on hiding its business from the public. In the same vein, it is disappointing that Keith Schembri hasn't confirmed his attendance yet.”

08:05: Good morning: we'll be keeping you live and updated from Valletta, with Massimo Costa taking comments from the invitees to today's MEPs' hearing.
A seven-strong delegation, with MEPs coming from the six largest political groups of the EP, today is in Malta to gather information on the situation of rule of law in the country, and the systems in place for the implementation, oversight and compliance with anti-money laundering rules and bank regulations.

The delegation will meet with members of the government, including the Prime Minister and the justice minister, the Attorney General, the Chief Justice, representatives of the country’s financial intelligence unit, the chief of police, NGOs active in the field of the rule of law and fighting corruption, the financial services authority, and financial intermediaries, including Pilatus Bank.

On Friday, at the end of the meetings at 13:30, the Chair of the delegation, Ana Gomes (S&D, PT), will hold a press conference at the offices of the European Parliament in Valletta. Once back in Brussels, a report containing the delegation’s findings will be drafted.

The list of MEPs travelling in the delegation is:

Ana GOMES (S&D, PT), Head of the Delegation         

David CASA (EPP, MT)

Maria GRAPINI (S&D, RO)

Monica MACOVEI (ECR, RO)

Ivan JAKOVČIĆA (ALDE, HR)

Takis HADJIGEORGIOU (GUE, CY)

Sven GIEGOLD (Greens/EFA, DE)

Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and a member of the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists, and sacked FIAU employee Jonathan Ferris will be amongst those the MEPs will be meeting.

It will also meet representatives of the FIAU, requesting the presence of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and justice minister Owen Bonnici, representatives of Nexia BT and Pilatus Bank, the MFSA, Attorney General Peter Grech and Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri, and the PM’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.

massimo_costa
Massimo Costa joined MaltaToday in 2017 as a journalist. He is a graduate in European Stud...