[WATCH] FIAU to be given investigative powers in government bid to prevent grey listing

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna says government is working across the board to draft necessary regulations to prevent the Financial Action Task Force from grey listing the jurisdiction come October

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna

Edward Scicluna has insisted government is not resigned to the prospect of Malta being grey-listed by Moneyval and is doing its utmost to prevent tthis from happening.

One such development will see the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit having its remit widened to include investigative and prosecutorial powers, the Finance Minister said.

The decision to give more powers to the FIAU is a change in strategy from government's initial idea of creating a specific financial crime task force to combat money laundering.

Scicluna said the new strategy will see a widening of the FIAU's remit and thus avoid repetition of work if a new agency were to be created.

The Finance Minister was asked to react to a US embassy official's warning that Malta is unlikely to pass the Moneyval test come October “unless something happens very quickly”.

Scicluna insisted government is working “night and day” to draft the necessary legislation.

“Everyone has his opinion; this is like the glass half full and half empty scenario. I like to see that it is filling up, while others are saying that is has not yet been filled,” Scicluna said.

Mentioning work done by government, Scicluna said that Cabinet had drafted a new law on the asset recovery bureau, pointing out that Malta’s legislation currently does not permit authorities to seize suspected criminals’ assets, stating the country will now switch to an American and European model.

He also mentioned that the recent COVID-19 pandemic slowed down administrative work on the issue.

“If you have someone who is unemployed on social benefits, and has a Ferrari for example, such legislation would allow for authorities to step in and demand a declaration of funds,” Scicluna said.

He also mentioned the police reform, and newly elected police commissioner Angelo Gafà’s intention of taking financial crimes seriously.

Scicluna said he believes the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will recognise the government’s efforts and that Robert Abela “means business”.

“We cannot resign ourselves, I believe that with everyone’s contribution we can convince them that what we are doing is for real and not just to pass the exam,” he stated.

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