New asset facility will preserve high-value items recovered by law enforcement

The facility will house boats, jewellery, cars, and other assets suspected to have been acquired through criminal means

Designed by Perit Mariello Spiteri, the facility will house high-value assets recovered by the bureau
Designed by Perit Mariello Spiteri, the facility will house high-value assets recovered by the bureau

A new asset retaining facility forming the Asset Recovery Bureau (ARB) will be set up in Malta through a €2.5 million government investment, to help preserve high-value assets seized by law enforcement.

ARB CEO Kenneth John Camilleri said that the bureau receives several high-value assets, and in turn, the bureau requires the special facilities and expertise needed to maintain them.

To facilitate this, the premises will house cars, jewellery, boats, and other assets recovered by the court during criminal proceedings for proper conservation.

If the police force loses a case against a suspected criminal whose assets have been seized, the assets will have to be given back in optimum condition. The facility would aim to ensure that the asset's original condition is fully preserved.

On the other hand, if the case is won and the court decides that the assets can be retained, the assets can be auctioned for their original value while the funds are integrated in government.

"These items need conservation," Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis explained. "By the time criminal proceedings finish, their value will diminish, and if the person is liberated they can open a case against government or ARB because the assets weren't preserved."

A security structure will be in place for the retention of trucks, containers, boats and cars, and a separate area will hold jewellery and diamonds.

Paintings will be housed in a specialised area, as they require a positive pressure chamber. 

Government is aiming to have this facility up and running within the next two or three years, with possible plans to obtain EU funding, which would see the investment extened to around €6 million.

The Minister said that, for the time being, asset recovery's primary focus is to ensure successful judicial sales, where the full price of the sale is received by government. 

Once this is successful, Zammit Lewis said that the ministry could look to introduce further legal concepts relating to Unexplained Wealth Orders.