Moneyval evaluation expected over the coming days

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 March, 2021 at 10:11 am by Andre Camilleri

The much-awaited Moneyval report is expected to be delivered to government in the next week or two, sources have told the Malta Business Weekly.

In September 2019, Moneyval, the European branch of the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, 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. Malta had until October to implement Moneyval’s 58 recommendations for bolstering its campaign against financial crime to avoid inclusion on the group’s “grey list” of high-risk jurisdictions. Being placed on the grey list would be a death knell for Malta’s financial services industry especially.

Government submitted its final progress report to the Moneyval experts on 5 October. It is understood that the process for Moneyval to assess the report and come up with a final decision was delayed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with experts having to postpone their visit to Malta.

Former Finance Minister Edward Scicluna had told this newsroom that the outcome of Malta’s evaluation was expected in the first half of 2021, but government sources have now said that the report is expected to come “this week or the one after”.

Back in 2019, when Malta failed the review of its anti-money laundering regime, Moneyval had said that the authorities appeared unable to quickly pursue high-level and complex money laundering cases related to financial, bribery and corruption offences, highlighting the need for changes and improvements. Among other things, Moneyval had said that limited resources, both human and financial, weigh negatively on Malta’s capability to effectively pursue this offence. “Investigations and prosecutions do not appear to be in line with the country’s risk profile.”

In October 2020, Malta had sent its final progress report to Moneyval experts in a bid to avoid being placed on the grey list. The report included legislative changes implemented by the country after it had failed the original assessment. Moneyval is currently assessing the country’s efforts.

In January of this year, Prime Minister Robert Abela expressed his belief that Malta is on the road to satisfy all the Moneyval requirements.

“We implemented the changes put forward by Moneyval and I remind everyone that for years Moneyval has been proposing changes and reforms that needed to take place in our country. And we were the government that implemented what was requested,” he had said.

Since the original Moneyval report, many legislative changes, as well as changes of people at the head of Malta’s investigative bodies have been made. One example of this is the new Police Commissioner, Angelo Gafa.

There were individuals who, because they were prosecuted or investigated, claimed that this was being done to appease Moneyval. Former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri was just last week charged in court over money laundering offences and in a Facebook post expressed his belief that the magisterial inquiry conclusions that led to his arrest were done to accommodate Moneyval to the detriment of exemplary people in business and professionals.

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