[WATCH] PN calls for political responsibility over ‘shocking’ Moneyval evaluation

The Nationalist Party called on the government to stop ignoring reports compiled by respected institutions and to stop undermining the country’s reputation

The Nationalist Party has called for political responsibility to be shouldered over the findings of a Moneyval evaluation of Malta
The Nationalist Party has called for political responsibility to be shouldered over the findings of a Moneyval evaluation of Malta

The Nationalist Party has called for political responsibility to be shouldered after an evaluation of Malta's anti-money laundering measures were found to be weak by the Council of Europe's Moneyval committee.

Moneyval is the Council of Europe’s committee of experts on the evaluation of anti-money laundering measures and the financing of terrorism.

Speaking during a press conference at the party’s headquarters, finance spokesperson Mario De Marco recalled how political accountability was meant to be one of the main pillars of the Labour administration. “The question now is, who is going to carry responsibility for this shocking report?”

De Marco pointed out that after the report was leaked to media back in March, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna had said that countries often failed the first report but then succeeded in turning things around in the final report.

This, he said, had obviously not happened, with the committee noting that Maltese authorities’ focus appeared to be mainly tax collection and not fighting money laundering.

He ran through the committee’s conclusions, including limited human and financial resources within regulatory authorities, law enforcement authorities’ inability to investigate high-level and complex money laundering cases.

The report ultimately found that Malta’s supervisory authorities do not have the resources to carryout risk-based supervision of a financial sector the size of Malta’s.

READ MORE: Moneyval: Malta must step up investigation and prosecution of money laundering

The most shocking revelation as far as the PN was concerned, De Marco said, was the conclusion that combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism did not appear to be a priority for the Maltese authorities.

This was of particular concern, he said, given that the money laundering was one of the most serious crimes that the world was working to bring under control.

He stressed that the Moneyval evaluation was not a “surprise visit”, but had been planned well beforehand, with the government and the Finance Ministry having ample to time to prepare.

“This worries us because we know it bring with it consequences to our country’s reputation as a serious financial centre,” De Marco said, adding that thousands of people owed their livelihood to the sector.

To have experts, like those at Moneyval, state that local authorities didn’t appear to be interested in clamping down on this sort of activity was shocking in and of itself.

“It’s about time the government stopped ignoring these reports and stops undermining the country’s reputation,” De Marco said, adding that government also needed to clearly state what is going to be done to address the deficiencies outlined in the report.  

 

He said that while the government had increased its human resources within a number of government departments, it had not done the same with entities tasked with preventing and investigating money laundering hadn’t similarly been reinforced. “Why does the police force not have the human resources necessary to fight money laundering?”

Economy spokesperson Kristy Debono said the report was just the latest in a series of damning reports which had outlined Malta’s apparent inability to enforce existing legislation and to seriously combat corruption.

She said that the findings of these reports meant that Malta was not adhering the principles that made a country democratic.

Debono noted that Malta had not obtained a high mark in any of the categories evaluated by the committee.

“In nine out of 11 aspects we are below average,” she said. “This report, like others before it, makes it clear that the problem in our country is not the laws, or a lack of authorities, but rather a lack of willingness to enforce the laws.”

She said that because of these deficiencies, Malta had now been placed on a provisional blacklist, with 12 months to address issued raised before it is permanently blacklisted.

Government reacts 

In a reaction to the PN’s statements, the government has said that the opposition has failed to read the report issued by it, in which the recommendations proposed by Moneyval are already being acted upon. 

“From the 58 measures proposed by Moneyval, 35% have already been fulfilled,” the statement read. 

According to the government, some of the proposed measures are part of the Strategy Plan laid out by the government in 2017. 

“The FIAU has also released a statement in which 90% of the recommendations, including more frequent auditing, were carried out,” the statement read. 

The government also said that unlike the previous administration, reports are being acted upon. 

“The problem with the opposition is that it has no credibility when it comes to speaking about this sector,” the government said. 

The government also stated that the Opposition failed to mention the report issued by the Institute of Governance in Basel, where Malta was classified as being as low-risk when it comes to money laundering. 

“Malta is determined to fight the global fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism,” the statement concluded. 

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