FIAU, Police deny allegations by former investigator

Both issued statements rejecting claims by former FIAU official Jonathan Ferris, that reports on Keith Schembri were purposely not investigated

The police have said that all FIAU reports are handled in the same manner
The police have said that all FIAU reports are handled in the same manner

The Police have rejected claims by former FIAU investigator Jonathan Ferris that FIAU reports highlighting suspicious activities by OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri weren’t registered by the police upon receipt.

“If the files are not registered, it is like they do not exist,” Ferris told the Sunday Times of Malta in an interview in which he also challenged the police to provide the reference number of the reports.

However, in a brief statement, the police said the reports in question were handled in the same way as similar cases.

“The Police Force denies the allegations made by Mr Jonathan Ferris and confirms that the files were registered and handled like similar cases,” read the statement.

“Statements made regarding these cases remain valid. The Police Corps has always conducted itself with integrity and absolute seriousness, and it is disgraceful that doubts are cast over it, even if through non-existent facts.”

Ferris was a former inspector in the police economic crimes unit.

FIAU categorically denies allegations

In a second separate statement, the FIAU categorically denied “allegations and insinuations of bad conduct” against it.

“The FIAU has always left its officials free to carry out their job in liberty and independence that their role requires,” read the statement.

These insinuations add to other insinuations that have been made lately in the media, regarding the number of FIAU employees who resigned since 2013, and all this while everyone knows that the job market in the financial services sector is a very competitive one where employees leaving because they’ve found another job happens at a considerably fast rate,” it continued.

The anti-money laundering agency insisted that it had always carried out its functions in a “lawful and correct manner” and that the leadership of the FIAU had acted accord to the law and in a “calculated and responsible manner in the best interest of the organisation and the rest of society in the decisions it took”.

Why has the FIAU become so controversial?

The FIAU is a government agency tasked with collecting information and investigating illegal financial activity such as money laundering. 

It is currently investigating suspicious transaction reports in financial services. It was at the heart of the run-up to 2017’s snap election, when a series of leaks revealed the extent of interest in the affairs of the prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.

The findings are now the subject of various magisterial inquiries.

The FIAU is headed by Kenneth Farrugia, who took over at the FIAU in February, six months after former boss Manfred Galdes resigned following the Panama Papers controversy.

Investigations by the financial intelligence analysis unit (FIAU) had recommended further investigations into the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri.

The Panama Papers had revealed that Schembri and minister Konrad Mizzi had opened two offshore Panama companies and New Zealand trusts.

A preliminary report by Galdes on an FIAU compliance visit was handed over to the police shortly before the April 2016 Cabinet reshuffle of 28 April, leading to Mizzi being ‘demoted’ to a minister without portfolio inside the Office of the Prime Minister.