An Asset Recovery Bureau (ARB) that was set up on paper in October 2015 has recovered €2,760 in criminal assets.

Although Justice Minister Owen Bonnici had said during an October 2015 press conference that the bureau would be set up “in the coming days”, the criminal asset recovery body ended up spending several years in limbo.

Asked in Parliament how much the ARB had recovered since 2017, Dr Bonnici said the bureau confiscated €1,500 in August 2018 and €1,260 in October 2018.

Replying to questions by PN MP Claudio Grech, Dr Bonnici tabled information showing that before the ARB started functioning, €30,623 worth of criminal assets were confiscated by the courts in 2017 and €66,893 in 2018.

Read: Retired judge to head office which administers funds seized from criminals

In a separate question, Mr Grech asked if the government was willing to commit funds recovered from drug crimes to NGOs who worked in the drug rehabilitation sector.

Dr Bonnici said in reply that the funds recovered were passed on by the ARB and deposited in the government’s consolidated fund.

The Justice Minister said there were various schemes offering financial support to NGOs, including those working in drug rehabilitation.

In a statement to Times of Malta, the ARB said almost a year and half had passed since the government appointed a new board to the bureau.

The statement said the board had focused on delivering a functioning asset recovery office by 2018.

A number of provisions contained in the 2015 legal notice governing the ARB were brought into force on October 1, 2017, to enable the setting up of the necessary structures, including its capacity to be able to start functioning, the statement read.

“The Asset Recovery Bureau has been built from scratch over the past year to combat crime and will do its utmost to exercise its functions and powers in a professional and fair manner,” the statement read.

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