Casa to hand FIAU evidence to Moneyval investigation team ahead of Malta visit

The Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering monitoring body will be sending an evaluation team to Malta in November

The Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering monitoring body, Moneyval, should look into the granting of a licence to Pilatus Bank, as well as the political hijacking of the financial services sector, David Casa said yesterday.

Moneyval announced it will be sending an evaluation team to Malta in November to assess Malta’s compliance with the principal international standards to counter money laundering as well as the effectiveness of their implementation.

The teams visit Malta every two years before submitting a report to the Council of Ministers.

The Nationalist MEP said that, in the coming weeks, he would be writing to Moneyval because he was concerned with the “political capture” of Malta’s Financial Investigation and Analysis Unit.

“The FIAU has been reduced to a government mouthpiece, more interested in concealing information to protect corrupt politicians and their collaborators than playing their role in bringing criminals to justice,” he said in a statement.

Last week Casa said he gave the European Central Bank further evidence on the private bank Pilatus, which he claimed went beyond “merely flouting” anti-money laundering rules. The bank has featured heavily in allegations that it hosted bank accounts for Azerbaijani oligarchs, as well as for the Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff Keith Schembri.

He had called for the withdrawal of the bank’s licence through a complaint filed on 25 November last year and also asked for the bank to be taken over by the ECB.

Casa has claimed to be in possession of an FIAU report, which allegedly shows tourism minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff Keith Schembri had taken kickbacks off the partial privatisation of Enemalta and the LNG power station contract through a Dubai company.

Casa has pledged to publish this report in a few weeks’ time, an action which could land him in trouble since the disclosure of FIAU investigations is punishable with five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to €116,468.

He has accused Pilatus Bank of having been “conceived from the very start as an organisation designed to launder money, with banking staff instructed to fabricate paper trails justifying suspicious transactions after they have been carried out.”

Pilatus Bank was drawn into the investigation of allegations that the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat was the owner of a secret Panama company, Egrant, and that the bank had processed a $1 million transaction into her account from Azerbaijan.

Casa yesterday said he would be presenting evidence – some of it already public – to Moneyval and encouraging it to consider a letter the FIAU had sent to Pilatus Bank immediately following the resignation of the unit’s then director, Manfred Galdes.

He said he would be asking that the information be passed on to the team that would be conducting Malta’s evaluation.

The team, Casa said, should pay special attention to three main issues while in Malta:

•  The granting of a licence to Pilatus Bank in view of the fit and proper requirements set out under FATF Recommendation 26;

•  The circumstances under which Pilatus Bank has been allowed to continue to operate;

•  The autonomy and independence of the FIAU.

“The consequences of a negative evaluation can be significant. Immediate action is needed, much of which is called for in the rule of law report that was discussed in the EP this week,” he said. “The longer this state of affairs persists, the more damage is being done to Malta.”

In 2017, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat decided to move the financial services under the supervision of the Office of the Prime Minister through the establishment of a parliamentary secretariat.

This, he had said, was evidence that the government was committed to continue strengthening associated institutions, including the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA).

Moneyval was originally set up in 1997, when the Council of Europe established the Select Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures.

In 2010, the Committee of Ministers adopted a resolution elevating Moneyval, as of 1 January 2011, to an “independent monitoring mechanism within the Council of Europe, answerable directly to the Committee of Ministers”.

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