FATF greylisting ‘unjust’, Maltese prime minister says

Robert Abela dubs FATF greylisting unjust, but says he will respect decision to carry out FATF action plan for Malta

Prime Minister Robert Abela addressing a press conference on the FATF greylisting
Prime Minister Robert Abela addressing a press conference on the FATF greylisting

Describing Malta's greylisting as 'unjust', Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted that government will respect the decision taken and work hand-in-hand with the FATF to resolve any shortcomings.

Abela was addressing a press conference in reaction to Malta's greylisting by the FATF despite strong adherence to a Moneyval assessment in which it achieved a high compliance rate on various recommendations.

"I believe that this decision was unjust for our country, but I will bow my head to the verdict out of respect to the institution," he said during journalist's question time.

He added that government will not be stomping its feet in this respect, and will engage in dialogue with international and local stakeholders to remedy the matter.

"We will never be uncooperative or obstructive. We will continue working with greater determination than ever before."

The Prime Minister remained tight-lipped on the details of the FATF verdict, explaining that it is FATF procedure to eventually issue an official statement with an explanation given then.

Abela admitted that episodes like the Panama Papers did not help in this decision, and when prompted on the citizenship-by-investment programme, said that government has always worked to improve this scheme.

Apart from this, Abela praised both the public and private sectors for the work carried out with respect to the FATF greylisting, as well as in the context of the Venice Commission recommendations.

Abela was also asked about whether the vote taken was a political one. To this he said that he would rather believe that the FATF is objective in their decisions, and that the decision was taken in this way.

"As a person who believes in the neutrality of institutions, I prefer to believe that this isn't the case, but we can't ever know what is happening behind closed doors," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Opposition proposed that a task force be set up to oversee the implementation of the FATF action plan.

In response to this, Abela clarified that a National Coordinating Committee is already tasked with doing this.

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said that he is not expecting any major shocks to the economy or to the country's finances. He explained that all the possible results of this decision have already been internalised by the economy, and no major impacts will be felt overnight.

"What we're talking about here is a process that the country will follow so that certain shortcomings are addressed," he said.

He added that government will work hand-in-hand with the private sector to overcome any challenges that will arise from the greylisting. He also assured concerned employers that the government will be behind them to alleviate any impacts felt.