Updated with Labour Party statement at 4.10pm

Some 24 companies have renounced their licences to operate in Malta since the country was greylisted by the Financial Action Task Force, compounding uncertainty in the financial services industry, the Nationalist Party said on Monday. 

During a press conference outside the MFSA in Mrieħel, chief PN spokesperson Peter Agius, MP Kristy Debono and candidate Jerome Caruana Cilia, called on the government to be responsible and communicate its plans which will concretely see Malta taken off the greylist. 

Noting that some companies which had given up their licence had been operating in Malta for 15 years, Debono said the current situation has left the financial service industry at a crossroads. 

“The government has not been convincing that it has a plan to get out of greylisting and if it does, it has not effectively communicated those plans,” she said.

“This is an issue because the lack of information is proving to be an obstacle for businesses in planning for the future. We don’t know what the plan is and we don’t have a detailed timeline of when things need to be achieved. This has created an uncertainty among industry professionals who are facing further instability because they have no information.”

Debono added that the government had not shown the will to hold responsible those whose actions had shredded Malta’s reputation internationally. 

'Businesses will pay price of reputational damage'

“Businesses need peace of mind that the government is showing clear commitment and is giving priority to getting out of the greylist,” she said. 

“This includes holding those within the FIAU and the relevant ministries responsible for their inaction. Those who protected the culprits are accomplices,” she said.

Caruana Cilia said the price of reputational damage was being paid by businesses, which were being bogged down by exaggerated and complex due diligence procedures, which are becoming a hindrance to smooth operations.  

“While most professionals continue to work hand-in-hand with authorities to ensure the highest standards of integrity, those who did not fulfil their duties have had no action taken against them, and in some cases were even rewarded with a promotion.”

The PN did not name any of the companies or provide evidence that showed there was a link between the greylisting decision and the companies' decision to renounce their licences.

Malta was put on a list of untrustworthy jurisidictions the global anti-money laundering watchdog the FATF in June.

The island has since signed up to a reform plan to address shortcomings in its fight against financial crime.  

'Half-hearted spin', PL 

In a statement reacting to the PN's press conference, the Labour Party on Monday afternoon dismissed the matter as “half-hearted spin”

Had the PN done its homework before holding a press conference, it would have found that it was “normal” for a number of operators to relinquish their license, the PL said.

In the last few months of the Lawrence Gonzi administration in 2013, some 27 operating licenses had been surrendered, Labour said. 

“In reality, it is normal to have a company surrender its license. That a leading Opposition spokesperson does not understand this is evidence that the PN cannot be trusted with leading this sector," the statement concluded. 

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