Malta’s anti-money laundering body, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), last year saw a 65% spike in suspicious activity reports, driven in part by a rise in reports from Satabank.
In a newsletter about its work, a first for the secretive unit, the FIAU said it had received 2,778 suspicious activity reports last year, up from 1,679 in 2018.
FIAU deputy director Alfred Zammit said the unit had grown from a virtually unknown entity with three staff members to a frontline authority made up of over 70 highly qualified officials.
In the update, the FIAU said over the years there had been a consistent increase in suspicious transaction reports, from 73 in 2010 to the 2,778 received last year.
Last year’s increase appears to have been driven in part by a rise in reports from Satabank, after the Malta Financial Services Authority handed over control of the bank to EY due to its lax anti-money laundering controls. The last EY report tabled in parliament showed it had filed 309 suspicious activity reports up until September 2019.
According to the last FIAU annual report, banks and remote gaming companies reported the most suspicious activity among their clients.
Other professionals like lawyers, auditors and other professionals in the financial services sector are generally more reluctant to report suspicious activity by their clients, despite legal obligations to do so.
Institute of Financial Practitioners president Wayne Pisani has called on the authorities to provide more feedback about the outcome of suspicious activity reports.
These reports can be used as the building blocks of analytical reports sent to the police once reasonable suspicion of criminal activity is established by the FIAU.
The reports are then meant to be investigated by the economic crimes unit, which is often seen as a major bottleneck in Malta’s fight against crime.
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has pledged to set up a new financial crimes agency to “break the police’s monopoly” when it comes to prosecutions.
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