The former head of a United Kingdom anti-corruption agency has dubbed Malta a “mafia state” where money laundering transactions of hundreds of millions of euros are made every year without any problem.
Speaking on BBC radio in the aftermath of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, Jonathan Benton, who had addressed an anti-corruption conference together with Prime Minster Joseph Muscat in London last year, said he had personally experienced the transfer of hundreds of millions of euros deriving from Libya and sorted through companies in Malta.
“In one of the cases I was involved in a few years ago, a €100 million transaction was all sorted and cooked up through Maltese companies in Valletta, put through private banks and made ready to be laundered in the UK’s financial system,” he said.
Asked by the BBC whether dubbing Malta as a mafia state was an exaggeration, Mr Benton replied: “Malta has a very serious problem and the problem is growing”.
In one of the cases I was involved in a few years ago, a €100 million transaction was all sorted and cooked up through Maltese companies in Valletta
“You cannot operate at the level you need to move tens, hundreds of millions without having corruption with its tentacles reaching into all areas,” Mr Benton said, adding that Maltese politicians must know what was going on.
He said the fact that, despite hundreds of millions of euros being moved every year through the financial services industry, only four people were arraigned over money laundering charges last year indicated that something was wrong.
“I can comfortably say that there isn’t confidence in Malta’s judiciary process and in the independence of the institutions, the upholding of the rule of law and everything that goes with a well governed state,” he said.
Mr Benton said people “should be surprised” on what was going on the island and something had to be done even at EU level.
He said the island’s policies, including the new passport-selling scheme, were encouraging more money laundering.
Pointing out that the process of money laundering looked complex but followed a pattern, he said the formation of shell companies, like those in the British Virgin Islands, together with access to financial systems through private banking formed part of the same process.
Noting that the FBI had been asked to assist in the murder investigation, Mr Benton suggested that the FBI’s international corruption unit should also be invited to the island to help in the probe.
“They can look at all the dollar transactions going on and people will start getting frightened that they won’t be able to do it through Malta any longer,” he said.
Over the years, Malta has been accused, particularly by the German media, that its financial services industry was another excuse for a tax haven.
The government always strongly rejected such criticism, insisting that Malta’s tax system was in line with EU laws.
Meanwhile, Italian news reports said an anti-Mafia commission from Italy will be visiting Malta next week.
ANSA said the commission will be led by Democrat parliamentarian Rosy Bindi.
The mission had been previously planned but ANSA said it will take on a new dimension following the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.