Investigations into corruption and money-laundering were no easy task and involved months of preliminary work, police CEO Angelo Gafà has said.

The European Commission’s 2019 annual country report about Malta described police accountability as “deficient” and noted that allegations about corruption and money laundering rarely resulted in prosecutions.

Angelo Gafà: everything was being done to take the fight against financial crime to the next level.Angelo Gafà: everything was being done to take the fight against financial crime to the next level.

In comments to the Times of Malta on the fringes of a Commission event about the country report, Mr Gafà cautioned that it often took months before such investigations yielded results.

Mr Gafà, an experienced investigator who also worked for the security services, was appointed CEO of the police force in 2016. In his new role, he no longer plays any part in police investigations.

He said recent cases had shown the police were committed to taking criminals to court when there was enough evidence to prove a case. The burden of proof for criminal cases was higher than that of civil cases, he pointed out.

One of the problems identified by the European Commission was understaffing in the police economic crimes unit. Mr Gafà said efforts were ongoing to strengthen the unit, which had already seen its staff double. The unit had been split into two, with a new team focusing solely on money-laundering cases.

He said such reforms showed the police were fully committed to carry out all necessary changes. Apart from simply bolstering human resources, he continued, efforts were also made to train officers to better deal with complex financial crimes.

Hundreds of thousands of euros had been invested in hardware and software that would aid in better tracking links between criminal activity, which was becoming increasingly sophisticated and international, he said. 

Mr Gafà said all these actions had been taken months before the Commission’s report. This showed everything was being done to take the fight against financial crime to the next level, he noted.

The government has been rocked by allegations of high-level corruption over the past years, with little consequence for those involved.

The police were fully committed to carry out all necessary changes

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat retained his top aide, Keith Schembri, and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi even after their plans to receive payments totalling $2 million via offshore companies were revealed in the Panama Papers.

The police are not known to have opened an investigation when such plans were revealed in 2016 and former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil had asked the courts to look into the allegations.

The Sunday Times of Malta reported that Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar had warned a whistleblower in 2015 that a probe into allegations of irregularities in the way Malta’s consulate in Algeria was issuing Schengen visas would not be easy given a potential link to the Prime Minister’s cousin.

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