Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has justified what PN MP Chris Said dubbed as an “explosion” in the FIAU 2018 budget, which mushroomed from the original approved amount of €1.6 million to €10.6 million.
The FIAU has been in the spotlight over the past few years after handling high-level money-laundering investigations involving politicians, including the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Opposition leader Adrian Delia.
In July, the European Banking Authority demanded action by the FIAU after it deemed that the unit had breached EU anti-money laundering laws over its supervision of Pilatus Bank.
The bank’s licence was withdrawn by the European Central Bank last November.
The Finance Minister informed parliament that additional funds were needed by the FIAU for a number of reasons.
Unit’s human resources boosted
Prof. Scicluna said security improvements were made to the way the FIAU handled data, as well as improvements to the building’s security and its staff.
The Finance Minister said the unit’s human resources had been boosted and other changes implemented according to an established plan.
Money was also spent on the employment of “international skilled persons” to assist the FIAU in its anti-money laundering and terrorist financing obligations.
Assistance was sought in the drawing up of an action plan and for preparations for a moneyval inspection and other reviews, Prof. Scicluna continued.
He said this had all been done to strengthen the unit’s operations and help it meet both current and future obligations.
The minister said the FIAU could not give more detailed about its operations due to confidentiality requirements.
Former FIAU manager Jonathan Ferris was denied whistleblower protection last year following claims that his dismissal soon after the June 2017 election was politically motivated.
While Mr Ferris has said he was dismissed as his investigations worried those at the top echelons of power, the FIAU said he was told to clear his desk during his probation period after falling short of expectations.