Malta opts out of European public prosecutor’s office on tax evasion and fraud

Malta and eight other member states opted out of a new European public prosecutor that could bring actions on tax evasion and fraud directly in front of national courts

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Matthew Vella
9 June 2017, 8:06am
Malta has opted out of the EU public prosecutor’s office on cross-border financial fraud, after 20 member states, including heavyweights Germany and France, set up an independent EU public prosecutor’s office to combat tax evasion and fraud worth billions of euros every year.

The EU failed for years to win unanimous support for the project among the 28 member states, due to concerns over possible infringements of national sovereignty. “Today in the Justice council, 20 member states reached a political agreement on the establishment of the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office under enhanced cooperation. The European Parliament will have now to give its consent,” the Commission said on Thursday.

‘Enhanced cooperation’ allows a minimum of nine EU members to steam ahead on a proposal without approval from other member states.

“Why am I not surprised?” commented Green Party chairperson Arnold Cassola in a first reaction. “How could Malta risk having a foreigner uncovering and investigating financial misdemeanours of Maltese citizens, such as Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri?” he said in a reference to the Panama Papers.

“You don’t want the foreigners, Joseph? Ok, let’s have the Maltese then. In its first parliamentary sitting, the new parliament should set up a parliamentary committee to investigate all those Maltese involved in the Panama papers. Let’s see if you really want transparency and clarity on the whole issue.”

The EU public prosecutor will have the authority to investigate and prosecute criminal cases affecting the EU budget, such as corruption or fraud with EU funds, or cross-border VAT fraud.

National budgets all over Europe are said to lose at least €50 billion of revenues from VAT every year through cross-border fraud.

The EPPO will be able to act quickly across borders without the need for lengthy judicial cooperation proceedings and bring actions against criminals directly in front of national courts.

Along with Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom, which have an opt-out right for the public prosecutor’s office, the other members that did not sign off on the project are Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland, and Hungary. They can opt-in later on.

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.