More than 60 per cent of the fines issued by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit last year are unpaid.

According to information given in parliament by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, the FIAU issued a total of €3.36 million in administrative fines against 144 companies or individuals. Of these, only €1.4 million were paid by 96 subject persons.

He was replying to a parliamentary question by Nationalist MP Jerome Caruana Cilia.

Caruana said that one must keep in mind that fines determined by the anti-money laundering body can be changed following a court decision.

Moreover, when an FIAU decision is appealed before the court, the fine established by the body is not paid because that penalty is not considered final. It is only paid after a court decision.

The court has challenged several fines issued by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit over the past years, with different judges ruling against its “dangerous” system in the imposition of fines since it was acting as prosecutor, judge and juror.

The constitutional court also declared the fines as being unconstitutional as they breached people’s fundamental right to a fair hearing before an independent court.

'Institutionalised incest'

Last year, one judge described the system the FIAU was using as “institutionalised incest”.

“Without case law and jurisprudential teachings, even common sense dictates that such punishments… penalties, call them what you may, must be imposed by a court as constitutionally known… and not by a body of an administrative nature that operates in an opaque manner and [laden] with conflicts and interests,” Mr Justice Toni Abela ruled.

There were at least five decisions against the anti-money laundering watchdog, with many other cases still pending before the constitutional court.

According to information given in parliament last October, the FIAU had 21 constitutional cases filed against it. Until then, the unit spent €147,000 in legal fees.

In 2019, the unit imposed 19 fines and collected a mere €37,000. The following year, the unit issued 170 fines and collected just over €2.1 million, including fines that had been pending since 2016. In 2021, the FIAU issued 176 administrative fines and collected almost €1.2 million in fines, including one pending since 2018. In 2022, the FIAU issued 145 fines and collected €3.5 million.

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