The State’s anti-money laundering agency, which conducted an investigation related to the Panama Papers, is still without a head after the departure of Manfred Galdes nearly eight months ago.

While Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has stated that the new director of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) has been selected, his or her identity is still shrouded in mystery. Professor Scicluna simply said the individual was “highly qualified and experienced”.

Attorney General Peter Grech, who chairs the agency’s board of governors, which chooses the director, ignored questions sent by this newspaper 10 days ago. The other representatives on the board are appointed by the Central Bank Governor, the chairman of the Malta Financial Services Authority, and the Police Commissioner.

Sources said the FIAU is currently headed by Dr Galdes’s deputy and not even the staff know who the new person in charge will be.

The FIAU is subject to strict secrecy provisions in its governing law

“The FIAU functions as an independent intelligence agency in accordance with its legal status under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The Ministry for Finance is, therefore, not involved in the management of the FIAU which is also subject to strict secrecy provisions in its governing law,” a spokesman for the Finance Ministry said when asked who was the agency’s new head.

The FIAU gathers intelligence but cannot prosecute, and to this end, its investigations are passed on to the police to take action.

The agency periodically passes on information of this nature to Maltese financial institutions. The information originates from the international Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body that promotes measures combating money laundering and other threats to the international financial system.

Dr Galdes’s abrupt resignation was announced last August after it was made public that the FIAU had concluded an investigation into the Panama Papers leak.

The former FIAU chief refused to state publicly why he resigned, saying the law precluded him from doing so. However, it was later announced that he had been appointed CEO and director of ARQ Group’s compliance and anti-money laundering branch.

The conclusions of the FIAU’s Panama Papers investigation were reportedly handed to the police but the report was never published and the police never took any criminal action over its findings.

Former police commissioner Michael Cassar went out on long sick leave soon after it was handed over to him and eventually resigned for personal reasons.

The agency’s bulletins that listed Panama as high-risk were circulated in 2014, before the trusts were set up in December of that year, and circulated again in 2015, at around the same time that two companies in Panama were set up by Keith Schembri, the prime minister’s chief of staff, and minister Konrad Mizzi.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.