[WATCH] Edward Scicluna says European Commissioner never raised threat of binding order

Malta’s Finance Minister says European Commissioner Vera Jourova never raised the threat of a binding order during face-to-face meetings but then told the Financial Times about it

Edward Scicluna holding the FT while inaugurating the new BOV offices
Edward Scicluna holding the FT while inaugurating the new BOV offices
Edward Scicluna calls out 'unfair' treatment of Malta at hands of EU Justice Commissioner

Edward Scicluna has expressed disappointment at what he described as the “unfair” treatment meted out against Malta by European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova.

The Finance Minister took umbrage at the fact that Jourova spoke to the Financial Times on matters she did not even raise during two face-to-face meetings.

The Commissioner was quoted by the newspaper saying that she will publish a “formal opinion” on action that must be taken against Malta after the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit failed to address concerns raised by the European Banking Authority over its handling of Pilatus Bank.

READ ALSO: Brussels to issue binding orders to Malta to address FIAU’s shortcomings

The opinion is expected in November and the FIAU will have 10 days to respond on what changes it plans to implement.

But during the inauguration of Bank of Valletta’s Premium Banking Centre on Wednesday morning, Scicluna said Jourova made no mention of the opinion during a face-to-face meeting with him on Monday.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova
EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova

She also did not raise the matter during another meeting with Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri a week earlier.

Both meetings were intended to keep Jourova abreast of Malta’s efforts to combat money laundering.

“I am disappointed that a day later, the Financial Times called Malta’s ambassador asking about Jourova’s statement that she was going to issue an opinion by November,” Scicluna said, while holding a copy of the FT in his hands.

It is my suspicion that these are the parting shots of an orchestrated media campaign against Malta that will unfold this month Edward Scicluna

Malta was informed that the Cabinet of European Commissioners had not yet received any such opinion from the Commissioner, he added. 

The minister said it was his belief that German MEP Sven Geigold’s comments about a campaign to force HSBC out of Malta – reported in British newspaper The Telegraph – and the subsequent report in FT of Jourova’s comments formed part of an orchestrated campaign.

READ ALSO: German MEP wants HSBC to quit Malta over lax financial regulation

“It is my suspicion that these are the parting shots of an orchestrated media campaign against Malta that will unfold this month,” Scicluna said, refusing to speculate on who could possibly be behind this.

October is the first anniversary of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, which had prompted a series of visits by MEPs probing the rule of law in Malta. 

The minister also refused to speculate when asked whether the continued presence of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri in government was the cause of such bad press.

Mizzi and Schembri had opened companies in Panama shortly after the 2013 election and their names had cropped up in the Panama Papers.

Scicluna insisted that government will not be derailed from its efforts to tighten money laundering rules.

He said Malta will soon publish a detailed three-year plan to combat money laundering and a coordinating unit had been set up to implement the measures.

“Malta is asking to be treated fairly; not softly and not harder than anyone else. Our banks do not merit being caught up in this mudslinging,” Scicluna said.

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