Malta is on track to make it through a crucial evaluation of its anti-money laundering regime, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Sunday.  

In a brief phone-in interview on the Labour Party’s ONE radio, Abela said the government had put a lot of work into addressing shortcomings that had been highlighted in State authorities's handling of financial crime.  

In 2019, Malta failed an evaluation of its efforts to fight money laundering by the Council of Europe’s so-called MoneyVal assessors. 

A final progress report was sent to the experts by Malta back in October 2020 and includes the legislative changes implemented by Malta in a bid to address the situation. 

The global Financial Action Task Force, which fights money laundering and the financing of terrorism, is now considering whether to put Malta on its ‘grey list’ of untrustworthy jurisdictions.  Grey-listing could have far-reaching consequences for the economy, seriously impacting the country’s attractiveness as a financial centre. 

A team of experts from the FATF will visit Malta this month for an in-depth assessment. 

On Sunday Abela said the government had been working tirelessly to rectify the situation. 

It was this commitment to improve the functioning of state institutions that defined the present Labour administration, he said.   

2020: A year in review

Abela dedicated most of his first speech of 2021 to a review of 2020. 

The past year had started with unprecedented pressure from a winter migration flow which was quickly followed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. 

After taking office in January, Abela said he had sought to reform state institutions such as the police. This, he said, was not just about changing the police commissioner, but a top to bottom reform of the way the corps worked. 

Important investigations were proceeding unhindered, but also community policing was having a direct impact on people’s lives, he said. 

Abela also recalled the EU funding allocation secured during 2020, which he said was the largest Malta had ever been handed by Brussels.   

The health authorities’ efforts during the Coronavirus outbreak, meanwhile, spoke for itself.   

Abela was also keen to remind listeners about legislative reforms that the government drove forward such as amendments to the rules governing divorce proceedings. 

In closing, the prime minister had a word of caution. 

The pandemic, he said, have reset the country’s values, and this was a positive that should not be overlooked.   

While it was important to get businesses up and running again, society needed to hold on to these reaffirmed values of family, community, and common decency.  

He also warned against political bickering, which he said, could tear the country apart. 

When the time comes to decide on the next government for the next five years, Abela said, he hoped this decision would be based on who had done their utmost in the face of the greatest crisis to face the country since the second world war and who wanted to keep driving the country forward.    

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