Editorial: Malta’s reputation – More action needed

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 March, 2021 at 2:41 pm by Andre Camilleri

The Moneyval evaluation report is expected to be in the government’s hands in the coming days, either this week or the next.

This could end up being a major negative milestone for the country if we do not pass this test, as we could end up being placed on the so-called “grey list”, which is not where we would want to be. Being placed on the grey list would be a death knell for Malta’s financial services industry especially.

In September 2019, Moneyval, the European branch of the Financial Action Task Force, ruled that Malta remains highly exposed to illicit finance but lacks the resources and infrastructure required to prosecute and seize assets from money launderers and the criminals they serve. Moneyval issued 58 recommendations for Malta and gave a year for the situation tohas worked and toiled to fix the issues and Prime Minister Robert Abela has expressed his belief, in the past, that Malta will pass this test.

We all hope that he is right. We all hope that Malta will not fail, due to the damage that will follow, both reputationally and otherwise.

Hopefully Abela’s government changes, made over the past year, will be enough to satisfy Moneyval, namely changes within the Police Force, the FIAU and the MFSA (although these might have been overshadowed by the Cuschieri scandal). At the same time, however, one must point out that Malta should not have reached this point to begin with. Some may argue that this is partly due to the PN administrations not changing things prior to 2013; well that was eight years ago and it’s time for that sort of reasoning to be thrown to the curb. But the Moneyval issue is just the latest in a long line of other things, which have affected the country’s reputation.

Malta’s reputation has taken a beating over the past years. PL apologists argue that this is due to the PN making points at EU level. The EU Parliament is also our Parliament and such an argument does not hold water. It was decisions taken by Joseph Muscat’s government or in certain instances, lack of decisions that led Malta down the road to the tattered reputation of the country. It was the sense of impunity and weak institutions that led the country down that path.

Abela’s government is trying to fix things and he is right to do so. He has slowly moved aside many who were part of Joseph Muscat’s Cabinet, seemingly in order to present a new Party. Although government has worked to try and improve the institutions; there is still a lot that needs to be done.

The PM should, for instance, speak to all his ministers, and take action, over the allegation made by Vince Muscat, that there is a sitting minister who was involved in an unspecified “big job”.

One hopes that Malta will never again find itself in the position it is now and that Malta’s name will eventually recover. But in order for this to happen, government must not make any mistakes. Abela has started to work on cleaning Malta’s name through the legislative changes made… but one misstep is all it takes for that to be thrown away.

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