Economic crimes police gets manpower boost as Moneyval test looms

18 more officers for Police economic crimes unit as tough Moneyval test takes place in coming months

A Council of Europe plenary, where the Moneyval report on member states is debated
A Council of Europe plenary, where the Moneyval report on member states is debated

The police force has assigned 18 more officers to the economic crimes unit as Malta braces itself for the tough Moneyval test in the coming months.

The officers, a mix of constables and sergeants, were transferred from other sections of the force after undergoing an interview, police sources told MaltaToday.

The police force now has 79 officers assigned to the unit tasked with investigating financial crime, a 51% increase in human resources since March.

The additional recruitment comes after nine additional officers were assigned to the unit earlier this year and are undergoing training to become inspectors.

“The increase in human resources is part of the police force’s efforts to place greater emphasis on the fight against financial crime after severe criticism from international organisations, including Moneyval,” the sources said.

Moneyval is a monitoring body of the Council of Europe tasked with assessing countries’ compliance with international standards to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Moneyval findings on Malta that were released in September last year, called on the country to step up its efforts to investigate and prosecute money laundering, and strengthen its supervisory systems.

A follow up report is expected later this year and unless the government shows it means business, Malta can be grey-listed, a prospect the country wants to avoid.

Moneyval’s technical assessment last year revealed that police prosecutions amounted to less than 3% of all suspicious cases flagged by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit between 2014 and 2018.

Police sources told MaltaToday that upon becoming Prime Minister in January, Robert Abela had indicated his government’s intention to the police that fighting financial crime should be a priority.

“Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has made it clear to high ranking officers that the economic crimes unit should have the necessary resources to effectively tackle financial crime,” the sources said.

The police force has issued a call for cybercrime analysts and will shortly be doing the same to recruit financial crime analysts from outside the force to strengthen its analytical capacity.

These will be civilian professionals attached to the police force who will provide the expertise to track sophisticated money laundering crimes.

The unit is shortly expected to move into a dedicated building in Santa Venera.

Malta has come in for serious criticism over the past four years over what is perceived as police reluctance to investigate money laundering allegations against high profile people linked to the government.

The problem is further compounded by a lack of prosecutions on cases flagged by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.