Finance Minister Edward Scicluna want to set up a financial crime agency to “break the monopoly” the police have when it comes to prosecuting financial crimes.
In the wake of the Panama Papers scandal and journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, a spotlight has been shone on the police’s economic crimes inability and reluctance Prosecute money-laundering and terrorism financing cases.
Speaking to Times of Malta on the fringes of a terrorism financing conference held in conjunction with Scotland Yard, Prof. Scicluna acknowledged Malta lacked expertise when it came to terrorism.
Between 2015 and 2018, Malta’s anti-money laundering and terrorism financing unit, the FIAU, sent eight potential cases of terrorism financing for further investigation to the police, yet none of these reports have yet resulted in a prosecution.
The finance minister said it was becoming increasingly important that Malta did not rely on one force or unit when it came to fighting organised crime.
He said a number of countries had various agencies or forces that cooperated between them, whereas in Malta the current “monopoly” held by the police created problems in many cases.
Prof. Scicluna said the government had separated the prosecution functions from the Attorney General’s office, and would go further by creating a dedicated agency to handle big financial crimes cases, which will investigate in cooperation with the police.
In a short address during the Scotland Yard training workshop, which was closed to the media for security reasons, Prof. Scicluna acknowledged the need to identify blockages and weak links when it came to fighting money-laundering and terrorism financing.
He said the biggest deterrent when it came to financial crime was prosecution.
An assessment by Moneyval, the Council of Europe anti-money laundering body, last year found the police to be woefully under-equipped to fight organised crime.
The finance minister said the government would be implementing all Moneyval’s recommendations and would strive to boost the efficiency and expertise within regulatory bodies.