[WATCH] Police have sufficient resources to prosecute financial crimes, Scicluna insists

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna says Malta will only avoid FATF grey-listing if police prosecute financial crimes

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said all funds necessary to investigate financial crimes have been provided to the police
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said all funds necessary to investigate financial crimes have been provided to the police
Police have sufficient resources to prosecute financial crimes, Scicluna insists

Edward Scicluna has insisted that the police have sufficient resources when it comes to investigating and prosecuting financial crimes.

The Finance Minister, however, underlined that the “monopoly” police had when it came to prosecuting such crimes was something which didn’t exist in other countries, and said that an agency dedicated to taking such cases to court was being set up.

Scicluna was answering questions from MaltaToday - following a conference on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on Tuesday - in light of a warning by MFSA chief strategy officer Christopher Buttigieg last week that Malta risked greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) if it didn’t show it was enforcing financial crime laws.

Buttigieg warned that such grey-listing would be a “very serious” outcome for the country.

But Scicluna dismissed any worries that the police faced staff and resource shortages when it came to prosecuting financial crimes. He said that, on being appointed Finance Minister, he had offered the chief of police all needed funds in this regard.

“It’s not a matter of resources. When I was made Finance Minister in 2013 I had told the Police Commissioner that the Economic Crimes Unit had to be strengthened. I acknowledged that it was expensive to find the required expertise and said I was ready to sign a cheque for any funds required,” Scicluna said.

He said that Malta was in discussion with the UK Home Office to set up a local agency which would take on investigations from the FIAU, continue pursuing them and subsequently prosecute. The agency would be responsible for prosecuting money laundering on a massive scale, involving millions of euro, he said.

“The monopoly in Malta whereby the police is the sole entity charged with prosecuting such crime... you don’t find this in any other country,” he said.

Scicluna did not give a date when the creation of the agency would come to fruition, but said that it had to be set up “sooner rather than later”, since the country’s reputation was at stake.

The Finance Minister said the MFSA was one of the main institutions which was responsible for ensuring that grey-listing by the FATF “does not happen.”

He said Malta was working very hard to implement the 35 recommendations given to Malta in last year’s Moneyval report.

“We’ve welcomed all the recommendations and are confident that within the year time window we were given we will show Malta takes things seriously and is addressing the shortcomings identified by Moneyval,” Scicluna highlighted.

Within this time, he said he hoped the “court and police will also show that they deliver.”

“That will be the cherry on the cake - convincing those who are still doubtful that we’re not just all words, but we also act,” he said, adding that by doing so Malta would avoid being grey-listed by the FATF.

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