Malta is among a number of EU countries that missed a June 26 deadline to implement stricter anti-money laundering rules, the Times of Malta has learnt.

The government has yet to transpose into legislation the European Union’s fourth anti-money laundering directive, which imposes stricter client controls on banks and other financial intermediaries.

Under the new rules, intermediaries must carry out ongoing risk assessments of their customers in a bid to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The directive also broadens the definition of a politically exposed person, meaning that more people will be subjected to stricter checks.

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said the government would seek to push through the new rules before Parliament rises for the summer recess.

Asked whether there could be any repercussions as a result of the delay, Prof. Scicluna said there would not be any issues once the European Commission was assured the new legislation would go to Parliament.

Delay was a technicality due to Parliament being dissolved

He said the Commission would know the delay was a technicality due to Parliament having been dissolved early because of the June 3 election.

The European Commission would have been concerned if the new anti-money laundering rules did not make it to Parliament, Prof. Scicluna said.

Heralding the coming into force of the directive, European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans said last week that laundered money was oxygen to crime, terrorism and tax-avoidance.

The Commission has been given renewed impetus to combat money-laundering ever since last year’s Panama Papers leak re-vealed widespread tax evasion and money-laundering.

Amendments to the fourth anti-money laundering directive are already under way at EU level.

Greens MEP Sven Giegold on Wednesday accused EU Member States of putting national interests above the fight against financial crime after the European Parliament and European Council, which Malta chaired in the first half of this year, failed to agree on plans to tighten regulations on trusts.

“The European Council even demanded to weaken rules for politically-exposed persons so that Maltese members of government would potentially no longer be subject to enhanced customer due diligence,” Mr Giegold said in a statement.

Both Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, were found to have opened companies in Panama.

Their financial advisers, Nexia BT, unsuccessfully tried to open accounts for these companies that would have required annual deposits of close to $1 million.

The government also took its time in getting a specialised unit, tasked with recovering the proceeds of organised crime, off the ground.

The Asset Recovery Bureau was set up in 2015. However, what the Justice Ministry described as long-term board appointments were only made earlier this year.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said last March that the bureau’s regulations would come into force once the groundwork was fully established.

jacob.borg@timesofmalta.com