Justice system should have pool of magistrates dedicated to inquiries, Karol Aquilina says

Nationalist MPs says government lacking commitment in tackling money laundering  

Opposition spokesperson for Justice Karol Aquilina has suggested the justice system have a dedicated pool of magistrates focused on carrying out inquiries.  

“We can’t expect magistrates to handle court hearings in the morning, and then carry out investigations and research to their full extent,” he said.  

Parliament this evening approved the Second Reading of the proposed legal changes into the Prevention of Money Laundering act.  

Aqulina said the situation created by a Labour government has put the country’s financial services sector in a bad light.  

“This is not a situation created by the sector itself, which eight years ago enjoyed a positive reputation globally, but created by government’s inaction when faced by facts,” he said.  

Aquilina was referring to former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s decision to not oust former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and former Minister Konrad Mizzi following revelations in the Panama Papers.  

“Had Muscat taken the decision to remove them, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” he said.  

He also said the delay in for the transposition of this directive highlights the institutions failure in carrying out the work to their fullest.  

“If they were truly working, we would have been notified about the delay,” he said.  

The justice spokesperson also cited a number of cases where institutions failed to carry out their work properly.  

Eight months after the new police commissioner Angelo Gafà had announced the investigations into Pilatus Banka were in the final stages, no one has been charged in court.  

“Why was no one arraigned after the conclusions of the magisterial inquiry into kickbacks from passport sales was concluded?” he continued.  

No action was also taken against Konrad Mizzi, who had admitted he had opened accounts in Panama and a trust in New Zealand, the MP said.  

MPs Mario de Marco and Kristy Debono also addressed the house, insisting government must show its commitment in fighting money laundering.  

In the winding up debate, the Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said that in its report, Moneyval had stressed on “effectiveness of action” from government. 

“This is what we are working on, both through legislation and practical actions,” he said.  

The police, he said, have become more efficient and effective, as has the Office of the Attorney General.  

Zammit Lewis also said government is committed to strengthening the Asset Recovery Bureau, with the minister saying the record of confiscations was not a good one. He also stated there had been an issue with the storage of assets like yachts.  

He said a call for a new CEO has been issued, while warehousing is being set up.  

More in National