‘Malta should never end up again on such a list’ – PM reacts to greylisting removal

Prime Minister Robert Abela toasts FATF ‘delisting’: ‘Malta proved it was a serious and reputable jurisdiction’

Prime Minister Robert Abela (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Prime Minister Robert Abela (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Prime Minister Robert Abela said that Malta should never end up again on any list similar to the FATF greylist, in a reaction to the news that Malta had been officially taken off the list.

“I will be very clear. Malta should never get back on such a list. We have to look forward and assure sustainability,” Abela said in a press conference on Friday evening. "Malta has proven that it is a serious and reputable jurisdiction."

“Today was yet another confirmation of the commitment of this administration to modernise the country, our good governance and that our institutions work,” Abela said.

Abela said that the fact that Malta got out of the greylist in just 12 months was proof that the reforms were being implemented prior to June 2021.

“This is a confirmation of a reformist government that delivers on its promises. This was a challenge that now we have overturned in proof that we have a serious jurisdiction. Malta’s case was described as a success story,” Abela said.

He said that the reforms that were implemented are leading to a cultural change, and that Malta now wanted to reach new standards.

Abela did however say that he believed that Malta should never have been blacklisted.

He thanked various entities and institutions for their work, including the FIAU, the Police, the Attorney General office, the Malta Business Registry, the Commissioner for Revenue and the Malta Gaming Authority.

Abela said despite the challenges, the economic growth in the first quarter of the year was almost 8%, with the financial services growing by 4%, and the gaming sector by 9%.

PN augurs that the government learns from this ‘sad’ experience

Jerome Caruana Cilia, PN spokesperson for Finance said the news of Malta’s removal from the greylist was positive.

“With this news comes the onus of maintaining standards, building further robust control mechanisms and heightening our collective vigilance. We cannot afford to let our guard down,” Caruana Cilia said.

He argued that the cabinet of ministers is “painfully aware” of how government's lax governance structure negatively impacted the country's potential and casted a long shadow on Malta.

“This positive news now needs to be followed up by a clear vision of maintaining robust controls whilst at the same time making Malta once again a reputable jurisdiction of choice able to compete with all others.”

Malta Institute of Accountants appeals for vigilance

In a statement, the Malta Institute of Accountants welcomed the news with satisfaction but appealed for vigilance.

“A timely exit from the grey-list, which the Institute had immediately called for, was imperative to limit the impact of this decision and offer the jurisdiction the opportunity to get back on track in its efforts to place itself among the most reputable counterparts in the industry,” it said.

The Institute commended the efforts of financial services practitioners and other professionals who have worked tirelessly over the past months to ensure the strengthening of the financial services sector’s reputation.

“Malta’s de-listing should not however, constitute a point of arrival. All stakeholders have a responsibility to remain vigilant at all times and to continue improving on the higher quality that has been reached today,” the institute said.

The Malta Chamber of Commerce says this is just the first step

In a statement, the Malta Chamber welcomed the news, saying that this was just the first step.

It said that the past year was challenging for many businesses exposed to international payments, who it said had seen AML compliance costs rise significantly.

“We have also seen intensive efforts by regulatory authorities such as the FIAU and the MBR to address the concerns flagged a year ago in the shortest time possible. The target of being removed from the list has been achieved, but this is only the first step,” the chamber said.

It added that the next objectives should be to achieve a sustainable regulatory environment whereby AML obligations are more risk-based, proportionate to the size of the business, and effective at rebuilding our reputation as a reliable and competitive jurisdiction.

“Striking this balance going forward will be key to restoring our position as a leading financial services provider and developing those segments of the industry where we can have a competitive edge.”