Update 2 | AD, PN refute claims FIAU resignation not connected to Panama Papers investigation

Opposition says FIAU director has resigned in connection with Panama Papers investigations and lack of police interest

Joseph Muscat (centre, left) with minister Konrad mizzi (second right) in Singapore at the unveiling of a new floating LNG terminal
Joseph Muscat (centre, left) with minister Konrad mizzi (second right) in Singapore at the unveiling of a new floating LNG terminal

The Nationalist Party is demanding explanations into the resignation of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit’s director Manfred Galdes, claiming the anti-money laundering unit was investigating Maltese nationals implicated in the Panama Papers revelations.

The PN said the resignation was a serious one that put more pressure on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whose chief of staff Keith Schembri and minister without portfolio Konrad Mizzi were both revealed to have used Panama’s Mossack Fonseca to open offshore companies and trusts, and open a bank account in Panama.

“On 5 April, finance minister Edward Scicluna said in parliament that the FIAU was investigating Schembri and Mizzi. Four months later, the FIAU director has resigned. This raises serious questions that Muscat must answer.

MORE Panama Papers

“Has the FIAU concluded this investigation? Has its report been passed on to the Commissioner of Police and when? What steps did the Commissioner take? Do Muscat, Schembri and Mizzi have a copy of this report? Will Muscat publish this report?”

The FIAU was run by Galdes together with the Attorney General and the police force’s Economic Crimes Unit, and serves as the prime response point for understanding money laundering patterns and other ways of terrorist financing.

The Finance Ministry was officially informed of Dr Manfred Galdes' resignation as Director FIAU by the Attorney General acting in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.

In a statement to this newspaper, the finance ministry said it was not aware of any reasons surrounding his resignation. "The Finance Ministry was officially informed of Dr Manfred Galdes' resignation as director FIAU by the Attorney General acting in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit. The ministry is informed that Dr Galdes resigned his post at the FIAU to take up a post in private practice."

On its part, the Office of the Prime Minister said that the government was only informed of the resignation of Galdes upon receipt of the letter of resignation by the FIAU governors’ board.

“Mr Galdes resigned after accepting an offer from the private sector. He gave no such reason for resigning as alleged by the Nationalist Party and those likely allies it uses to hide behind. One understands that Mr Galdes would have brought any such issue to his superiors’ attention.”

The government said it would not interfere in any independent institution’s work.

“If the Opposition leader is suggesting that the government inteferes in these institutions, or has doubts on the Attorney General, who chairs the FIAU, he should make these doubts public.”

In a counter-reply, the PN said the Prime Minister had not answered any of the questions put to him, and demanded to know whether the FIAU investigations into money laundering related to Panama Papers had indeed been concluded. "These are questions whose answers the Maltese people have a right to know. Instead of being stubborn on the wrong decisions he took on the Panama scandal, Muscat must stop damaging our country's reputation."

Alternattiva Demokratika deputy chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said the greens did not accept the explanation that Manfred Galdes resigned to take up employment in the public sector.

“He has most probably resigned as he is witnessing the collapse of national institutions with a number of them becoming government yes-men. It is obvious that as a result of his resignation from FIAU he must seek employment elsewhere to earn a living,” Cacopardo said.

“Although there are indications that this investigation has been concluded, this is by no means a certainty, even though the latest resignation of Commissioner of Police Cassar has been linked to the matter. The silence of the Attorney General, who is also the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit's Chairman is worrying. At this sensitive point in time he has the duty to explain what is going on.”

More in National