The Financial Action Task Force will be visiting Malta to confirm its initial indications that the country has substantially completed its action plan, the government said on Friday.
The action plan is intended to get Malta removed from the FATF’s grey list.
In its most recent plenary session, the FATF said that Malta has addressed most of the action plan and had taken all the necessary steps to strategically address the recommendations made.
Experts from the anti-money laundering body will now visit Malta in person "at the earliest possible date" to confirm whether that progress has also been made in practice.
An onsite visit is a prerequisite for the FATF to remove a country from the list, which the anti-money laundering body describes as its list of 'jurisdictions under increased monitoring'.
The FATF said: “At its February 2022 Plenary, the FATF made the initial determination that Malta has substantially completed its action plan and warrants an on-site visit.”
That visit will serve for the FATF to verify that Malta is implementing and sustaining its anti-money laundering reforms "and that the necessary political commitment remains in place to sustain implementation and improvement in the future."
The government said it noted this decision and committed itself to continue working towards higher standards.
The FATF also added the United Arab Emirates to its greylist, two years after it called for "fundamental and major improvements" in the Gulf state.
There was better news for Zimbabwe, which was deemed to have completed its action plan and is now no longer among the counties facing enhanced monitoring, following a successful onsite visit by the FATF.
To get off the grey list, Malta had to improve its implementation of three key anti-money laundering issues.
At the heart of that plan is an improved commitment to effectively fight tax crimes by using intelligence to catch tax cheats, and better policing of ultimate beneficial ownership rules.
The action plan key points
1. Showing that ownership information for companies based in Malta is accurate, and that authorities crack down decisively when information about company ownership is found to be inaccurate.
Gatekeepers that do not comply with their obligations to obtain accurate and up-to-date beneficial ownership must be sanctioned.
2. Enhancing the use of financial intelligence by the government's Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit to support authorities pursuing criminal tax and related money laundering cases.
This includes clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the Revenue Commissioner and the FIAU.
3. Focusing FIAU analysis on criminal tax offences, to get it to produce intelligence that helps Maltese law enforcement detect and investigate cases in line with Malta’s identified ML risks related to tax evasion.
The FATF plenary will meet again in Berlin in June and then in Paris in October.
In a statement, the Nationalist Party said that it "took note" of the progress Malta appears to have registered but that the greylisting should never have happened in the first place.
"We will continue to suffer damage from the greylisting because our country is now considered to be a dubious jurisdiction and investment into our country must go through enhanced due diligence," it said.
The FATF does not call for the application of enhanced due diligence measures to be applied to greylisted countries, although some investors may choose to do so for their own peace of mind.