Two top officials at the government’s anti-money laundering agency (FIAU) were sacked soon after the Finance Minister asked whether reports involving Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi’s were “written to be leaked”, the Times of Malta has learnt.
Charles Cronin and Jonathan Ferris, who headed the compliance and financial analysis sections respectively, were given their marching orders two weeks ago, on June 16, it emerged yesterday.
Three days earlier, Edward Scicluna had said the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit's board must explain how the reports it had drafted and which involved Dr Mizzi, the Tourism Minister and Mr Schembri, the Prime Minister’s closest aide, were leaked.
Questions sent to Prof. Scicluna on whether the Finance Ministry had formally asked the FIAU to investigate the leaks and whether it had anything to do with the sackings were unanswered at the time of writing yesterday.
Mr Cronin joined the FIAU last October 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.
A witch-hunt carried out by a corrupt government- Jason Azzopardi
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.
In a statement expressing alarm at the dismissals, the PN said the news was proof that Malta was now a lawless country.
“These sackings were payback... this is a collapse of the rule of law and every law-abiding citizen should be concerned,” it said.
Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi hit out at what he termed as a witch-hunt carried out by a corrupt government.
The FIAU has been in the headlines over the past year following its investigations into the Panama Papers scandal.
Its former head, Manfred Galdes, told the European Parliament’s Pana committee last February the FIAU left no stone unturned in its investigations.
Two of the leaked reports concluded that police investigations were warranted into suspicions that Mr Schembri could be involved in money-laundering and possibly accepted kickbacks on passport sales. Mr Schembri denies such accusations.
A leaked extract of another report found evidence that the local company behind the LNG tanker transferred money to a Dubai-based company called 17 Black, which was the “target client” of Dr Mizzi’s and Mr Schembri’s Panama companies.
Another report found a number of compliance failures at Pilatus Bank, where Mr Schembri held an account.
The FIAU is headed by Kenneth Farrugia, who took over the FIAU reins last February, nine months after Dr Galdes resigned in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal.
Questions sent to the FIAU about the sackings remained unanswered at the time of writing. The unit has, in the past weeks, failed to reply to a request for comment about the Finance Minister’s remarks that the reports were written to be leaked.
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