Plans to set up an agency dedicated to fighting organised crime have been scrapped.

A spokesman for the Finance Ministry confirmed when questioned by Times of Malta that the plans had been shelved.

“The current work which is being done by the authorities is sufficient so there is no need to set up a new entity,” the spokesman said.

The former finance minister, Edward Scicluna, had touted the importance of setting up of such an agency to “break the monopoly” the police have in tackling such crimes.

Scicluna had said it was becoming increasingly important that Malta did not rely on a single force or unit when it came to fighting organised crime.

He had announced plans to set up the agency in 2019.

Malta has earned international criticism over the years for its failure to crack down on money-laundering and high-level corruption.

Although Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà had pledged to make financial crime a priority on his appointment last year, the police have so far failed to prosecute any top government officials in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal.

Former government officials Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi have been called in for questioning multiple times since Gafà’s appointment but the police have so far stopped short of issuing charges.

Slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had started to release information about their secret offshore structure five years ago. The information was subsequently confirmed in the Panama Papers leak.

Important not to rely on a single force or unit

Last October, the government had handed over the prosecution of major crimes, including money-laundering, to the attorney general.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has expressed optimism about Malta avoiding a damaging grey listing as a result of a critical 2019 Moneyval evaluation report.

The report had flagged how the police were only developing evidence to trace criminal proceeds related to money-laundering and terrorism financing in a limited number of cases.

The US embassy in November issued a statement to congratulate the authorities on the prosecution of suspected fuel smugglers who had long been on the police’s radar.

“Through the international anti-money laundering operation, Malta has demonstrated its commitment to working with its regional and international partners, including Europol, Italy, the UK and the US, to protect Libya’s natural resources and to fight transnational organised crime,” it said.

The embassy’s comments came days after the police arraigned fuel trader Gordon Debono and his wife Yvette, their business partner Sean Higgins as well as former footballers Darren Debono and Jeffrey Chetcuti, on money-laundering charges.

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