Opposition leader Bernard Grech has described a greylisting decision by the Financial Action Task Force as a national punishment.
“This is a punishment for the entire nation,” Grech said in a brief video statement on Wednesday afternoon in which he expressed his dismay at the international decision.
“This is not the time to remind people why we reached this point,” he said. “This is the time to work to achieve a national consensus.”
The FATF plenary voted to greylist Malta during a secretive session held on Wednesday afternoon. The government has yet to comment on the decision, though Prime Minister Robert Abela is expected to speak at a press conference at 6.30pm.
Grech calls for unity task force
In his statement, Grech urged the government to join the PN in setting up a “national task force” to coordinate work to limit the damage caused by the greylisting decision and eventually undo it.
“The FATF will meet again in October and Malta must be on the agenda, this time to return to the white list,” the Nationalist Party leader said.
Grech’s proposed task force would involve financial crime experts, social partners and representatives from both major political parties.
Speaking during a press conference later in the evening, Prime Minister Robert Abela dismissed Grech’s task force suggestion, saying such a body already existed.
“It’s called the National Coordinating Committee – NCC – and it is headed by [Finance Ministry permanent secretary] Alfred Camilleri,” he said. “The Opposition leader does not even know what work is under way.”
He pledged to "increase transparency, promote integrity, add oversight and change mindsets" if the PN were to be elected to government.
The PN said later that Grech cancelled his attendance at the EPP summit in Brussels and instead called an urgent meeting of the party's parliamentary group. The meeting is being held at 8pm.
Green party calls for Scicluna resignation
In its reaction ADPD - The Greens said the news was saddening but expected, coming after several years of "zero enforcement".
It called for an end to selling citizenship, the closure of loopholes that have "transformed Malta into a tax haven" and for the resignation of the Governor of the Central Bank, Edward Scicluna, the former finance minister.
"All this mess was directed by Joseph Muscat and Edward Scicluna, former Finance Minister who has been rewarded by his appointment as Governor of the Central Bank," they said.
"Muscat is gone. Scicluna needs to follow him at the earliest. He should either resign or be dismissed forthwith."
It said the country needed to take immediate action to rebuild Malta’s reputation.