Accountancy firm fined

I refer to the article entitled ‘Fine for accountancy firm that worked for alleged smugglers’ (October 27).

I am not in any way contesting the facts relating to the administrative fine imposed by the FIAU on my firm. That administrative fine was issued on the basis of findings from 2019 that identified a number of shortcomings in our administrative set-up, including staff that had not yet effected proper training in relation to their ‘anti-money laundering and terrorism financing obligations’.

These matters have, since then, been addressed and resolved via a fully-fledged remediation plan carried out during 2020 in full cooperation with the FIAU.

The article made certain associations with alleged criminal activities by third parties. By selectively naming just two clients out of our client portfolio it created a picture that could very easily lead readers to conclude that our firm was directly involved in the alleged criminal activities.

This mosaical construction is causing serious harm to our professional reputation and business goodwill by implying that, since we provided services to the two companies referred to, we were somehow involved with the said companies, their shareholders or directors in any business activity, be it legitimate or illegitimate, which they might have been carrying out. 

The day-to-day management, accounting and other related financial matters concerning both companies referred to were handled directly and exclusively by the management of the companies. Our involvement was that of conducting an end-of-year audit of the companies based on the information that was provided to us as at year-end, including banking transactions, contracts and related paperwork, which we request from all of our clients on an annual basis.

My firm had absolutely nothing to do with any decision-making of the companies involved. 

The article also refers to the 2015 bid by BSP Investments Limited, part-owned by myself, to run the St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals.

Neither I nor any of the firms that I own fully or partly had any interest or, indeed, knowhow  in the running of the three hospitals named.

In these procedures, it is entirely normal, and, in fact a practice, for firms that are interested in bidding for such tenders to use accounting firms such as mine to submit their ‘expression of interest’ on their behalf in order not to reveal the commercially sensitive information they are interested in.

The role of companies such as mine, as was the case in this matter, is limited to the collection of and payment for the tender documents on behalf of the client, who, then, compiles the bid and entrusts it back to us to be submitted.

We were fined by the FIAU solely for shortcomings in our systems for checking on clients. We addressed these shortcomings immediately in full cooperation with the FIAU and there is no association with any other activity that the article might have led readers to believe.

Chris Baldacchino – certified public accountant and practising auditor, Chris Baldacchino & Associates

Difficult to understand

Photo: Mark Zammit CordinaPhoto: Mark Zammit Cordina

When the government decided to open the schools in the middle of a pandemic, despite daily reports of scores of people getting infected and others dying, one reason given for the decision was that children and young people were suffering psychologically from being locked in.

Recently, while the pandemic is raging more than ever, the same children and young people together with their families are being denied access to l-Aħrax and Miżieb, one of the few wide, wooded areas still surviving on the islands.

Now there seems to be no problem for our government that this precious area, where the great majority of us can enjoy nature and relax safely in these times of stress, are excluded to favour the privileged class of hunters!

Who is looking after our well-being and our rights?

Whose rights and well-being are closest to the heart of our elected representatives?

Paul Zammit – Birkirkara

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