A dedicated team within Malta’s anti-money laundering unit, the FIAU, is being set up to enforce a recently imposed €10,000 limit for cash transactions on high-value goods. 

This limit, introduced in March, applies to immovable property, antiques, jewellery, vehicles and works of art. 

In a media briefing about the unit’s work last year, FIAU officials confirmed that the new team will be carrying out onsite inspections to ensure the cash limit is enforced. 

Last year saw a record number of 5,175 suspicious activity reports filed with the FIAU. The FIAU, in turn, shared 4,535 intelligence reports with national and international bodies. 

FIAU director Kenneth Farrugia said nine police prosecutions were based on FIAU report last year, up from zero in 2018. 

A total of 70 reports and 100 other additional intelligence reports were sent to the police in 2020. 

The unit’s staff complement is expected to more than double in 2021 when compared to the 70 employees within the FIAU back in 2019.  

The FIAU said during last year, a greater awareness of anti-money laundering and terrorism financing was noted during the 206 supervisory visits conducted by the unit. 

A total of €4.6 million worth of fines were meted out by the FIAU in 2020. 

On the recent spate of money-laundering prosecutions based on tax crimes, FIAU deputy director Alfred Zammit fended off criticism that the authorities were being too heavy-handed. 

He said not all tax evasion cases were dealt with by the police, as a number of smaller cases are flagged to Inland Revenue to be dealt with administratively. 

Zammit said one of the shortcomings flagged about Malta by Moneyval was the lack of criminal prosecutions linked to tax crimes. 

Moneyval had flagged in its assessment of Malta how authorities focussed primarily on tax collection, rather than conducting criminal investigations on tax-related matters. 

This, Moneyval had said, raised concerns on the adequacy of the measures applied by the competent authorities in the light of the national risk assessment conclusions about tax evasion being one of the highest threats in the country.

Times of Malta reported last week that Moneyval had taken a favourable view on the recent raft of reforms to Malta’s anti-money laundering regime. 

However, Moneyval’s position is not the last stage in the scrutiny process over Malta. 

The decision on whether or not Malta is ‘greylisted’ will actually be taken by another body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moneyvval’s global counterpart. 

Malta began engaging with the FATF at the start of the year, and a team of assessors will be grilling senior officials from Malta’s regulatory and law enforcement bodies in May. 

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