Updated 2.35pm

A top official at the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit has been sacked, a leading Nationalist Party MP has claimed.

Mr Cronin. Photo: LinkedInMr Cronin. Photo: LinkedIn

"FIAU Head of Compliance fired. The witch hunt continues by the corrupt govt. The best is yet to come," PN MP Jason Azzopardi wrote this morning.

Times of Malta is also informed that the head of the FIAU's financial analysis section was also handed his marching orders, with both officials sacked on June 16.

According to reports, both Charles Cronin and Jonathan Ferris were asked to clear their desks and leave the FIAU's Birkirkara offices two weeks ago. Both men were still within their probationary period of employment. 

In a statement expressing alarm at the sackings, the Nationalist Party said the news was proof that Malta was now a lawless country.

"It is clear these sackings were payback... this is a collapse of the rule of law and every law-abiding citizen should be concerned," the PN said.

Sacked after less than a year on the job

Mr Cronin joined the FIAU in October last year, having previously worked in the financial services sector in London, Jersey and Frankfurt. Mr Ferris was formerly a police inspector and moved to the FIAU shortly after Mr Cronin, on November 1, 2016. 

As compliance manager, Mr Cronin was responsible for overseeing the FIAU's compliance section and all of the unit's on- and off-site examinations, among other duties.

Both men are understood to have one-year probationary periods included in their employment contracts, meaning FIAU bosses could sack them with one week's notice and without providing a reason for termination. 

Dr Azzopardi made the claim on Facebook.Dr Azzopardi made the claim on Facebook.

Mr Ferris hinted at his sacking on Facebook. Photo: Jonathan Ferris/FacebookMr Ferris hinted at his sacking on Facebook. Photo: Jonathan Ferris/Facebook

The two men's June 16 sacking came just three days after Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, in an interview with Times of Maltasaid the Unit's board had to explain how reports alleging kickbacks and money laundering had been leaked. 

"The board has to explain how these [reports] got leaked, who leaked them and for what reason. Were these reports written to be leaked?" the Finance Minister had said. 

The FIAU, Malta's official anti-money laundering unit, has been at the heart of controversy concerning the prime minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri, with a leaked report having revealed that investigators at the unit wanted police to investigate Mr Schembri on suspicions of money laundering.

It is headed by Kenneth Farrugia, who took over the FIAU reins last February, nine months after its former boss Manfred Galdes mysteriously resigned in the wake of the Panama Papers controversy.

The FIAU has been contacted for comment.

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