Assessors from the Financial Action Task Force will visit Malta by June, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Saturday.
The timing increases the prospect that the global anti-money laundering body will be in a position to provide an update on Malta’s progress by its next plenary session, to be held in Berlin between June 12 and 17.
The FATF on Friday said that Malta appeared to have “substantially completed” the action plan required to get it off its so-called greylist. It also added the United Arab Emirates to the list and took Zimbabwe off it.
Experts from the anti-money laundering body will now visit Malta for an onsite visit to verify whether the action plan is being implemented in practice, and to determine if there is the political will to further improve Malta’s anti-money laundering framework.
That onsite visit will happen “in the first half of the year,” Abela said at a press conference held at the Office of the Prime Minister.
With the FATF scheduled to convene in June, the timing raises the prospect of Malta potentially getting off the FATF grey list almost exactly one year after it was relegated to it.
But the Prime Minister urged caution.
"Others said they would get us off the grey list in 100 days," he said with reference to a pledge made by his political rival, Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech.
"Mentioning dates is a mistake and we will be cautious.
“We are not at the end of the road just yet, but this shows that the government is committed to continue implementing reforms,” he said.
“We are a serious jurisdiction.”
Abela said that local experts had worked in silence to reform AML systems and address FATF recommendations, and said they would continue to receive all the backing and resources they need.
“We had a plan and we implemented it,” he said, adding that the FATF oversight was just one part of the process to make Malta a more robust jurisdiction.
Malta was placed on the FATF’s list of countries under increased monitoring, colloquially known as its grey list, last June.
The global body flagged three key issues that it said Malta needed to fix to get off that list: improving the accuracy of data concerning the ownership of companies; improving the use of financial intelligence to support law enforcement in financial crime cases; and focusing FIAU analysis on criminal tax offences.
Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said many local stakeholders have welcomed the FATF news with delight.
“We will continue to do our utmost and will greet FATF assessors in the best way possible,” he said. “Let’s keep our feet on the ground but I am optimistic that we will achieve the result we hope for.”
In a statement, the Malta Chamber welcomed the FATF announcement and urged authorities to "remain committed to the process" and said it would continue to "facilitate dialogue and collaboration" to ensure high standards could be achieved and sustainably maintained.
"This is imperative for Malta's reputation as a financial jurisdiction to be restored," it said.
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