A total of 237 Maltese taxpayers had featured in the Panama Papers leak, yet the police never carried out a comprehensive probe into all those individuals and companies named.

One senior police source said the bulk of the investigations were carried out by the Inland Revenue Department in an administrative process rather than a criminal probe.

Last year, Inland Revenue said €9.1 million had been recovered by the taxman after offshore dealings were exposed in the Panama Papers in 2016.

According to the Tax Compliance Unit, there were 237 taxpayers in Malta who featured in the Panama Papers – 163 individuals, 62 companies and 12 trustees.

Those who settled with the taxman have, so far, escaped any criminal action.

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has in the past said the authorities were set to place more focus on the criminal element of tax evasion, which often involved a money-laundering element.

A financial crimes agency will be set up by the government but little detail about the proposal has surfaced since the idea was floated last summer.

The police source lamented the fact that the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) had never sent a “holistic report” about all those named in the leak.

A 2019 assessment report by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering body, had found that the police carried out very few investigations on their own initiative when it came to money-laundering.

Drive to boost the FIAU’s resources had been halted

FIAU reports about politically-exposed persons revealed in the Panama Papers to have secretive offshore structures have not yet resulted in any prosecutions by the police.

Former FIAU director Manfred Galdes told a public inquiry on Monday that the screws had tightened on the unit in 2016 when it was carrying out an analysis of former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri’s web of offshore holdings.

Dr Galdes said a drive to boost the FIAU’s resources had been halted during the Schembri probe. He told the inquiry that he had called the MPO, a government entity within the Prime Minister’s Office, and had been told that an order had come through to “stop everything”.

The police said in a statement last December that investigations based on the conclusions of the Egrant inquiry as well as FIAU reports were still ongoing.

Former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil had sparked an inquiry into two of the FIAU reports about Mr Schembri, claiming the police had done nothing about them.

Economic Crimes Unit chief Ian Abdilla had told Times of Malta the police had “planned further action” prior to the leak of the reports.

Mr Abdilla had said in 2018 it did not make sense to investigate FIAU reports when magistrates were doing the same.

Times of Malta has revealed how a botched attempt by the Economic Crimes Unit to gain more information from the United Arab Emirates about Yorgen Fenech’s company 17 Black allowed the business magnate to walk away with two cheques worth €1.5 million.

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