The Justice Ministry is to spend €2.5 million on a new futuristic compound in Ħal Far to securely store assets recovered from crime, minister Edward Zammit Lewis has said.

Plans of the new building housing the Asset Recovery Bureau were unveiled during a news conference on Tuesday. 

The four-storey building will preserve recovered from criminal activities, including jewellery, works of art, boats, trailers and cars. 

According to designers EMDP, the concept for the building is derived from traditional Maltese architecture such as porticos, forts and muxrabija to highlight the compound's function as a "secure heaven" and a "discrete sentinel". 

The east elevation of the proposed Asset Recovery Bureau. Photo: EMPThe east elevation of the proposed Asset Recovery Bureau. Photo: EMP

Speaking at a press conference, Zammit Lewis explained that in terms of the law the bureau can confiscate assets from people suspected of having acquired them from the proceeds of crime. Such assets can be seized at the start of legal proceedings. 

The Asset Recovery Bureau was set up by legislation in 2015 but its operations were stunted, with some regulations not having been brought into force for a couple of years, parliament heard last week

Asked in Parliament at the end of 2018 how much the ARB had recovered since 2017, then Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said the bureau confiscated €1,500 in August 2018 and €1,260 in October 2018.

In 2019, Times of Malta had reported that the bureau was left in the lurch after both the Police Commissioner and Inland Revenue Commissioner said they were short of staff to assign full-time officers to work there.

A map of the Hal Far industrial site, showing the location of the building.A map of the Hal Far industrial site, showing the location of the building.

It was also announced in 2019 that the bureau had entered into a project with Wilsons Auctions, to provide technical assistance in the management, disposal and valuation services for crime-related assets.

The bureau ended up in hot water last year when it sold off a Ferrari owned by a suspected drug dealer, despite him never being convicted of a crime in Malta. The court had ordered the attorney general to pay the car's original owner €70,000 in compensation. 

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