The financial services watchdog ramped up enforcement measures by 46% in the year Malta was greylisted, according to its latest annual report.  

In its 2021 annual report, tabled in parliament on Wednesday, the Malta Financial Services Authority says it took 76 enforcement actions last year. 

This marked a 46% increase over the previous year and translated into some €907,000 in fines. 

In 2020, the authority issued 52 enforcement actions but for larger amounts netting around €70,000 more than in 2021.

By way of comparison, in the previous three years (2017-2019) the MFSA issued some €1.2 million worth of fines.

The increase in the number of fines came in the year Malta was placed on the so-called grey list of untrustworthy financial jurisdictions by a global watchdog. 

The Financial Action Task Force placed Malta on its grey list in June 2021, saying it was not doing enough to combat major financial crime. 

The island was given the all-clear by the FATF last week.  

In his foreword to the report, MFSA chief executive Joseph Gavin acknowledges the “adverse consequences” of Malta’s greylisting by the FATF, saying it was a major priority area for the authority last year.  

600 'supervisory interactions'

Over 600 “supervisory interactions” were carried out, a third of which involved aspects related to anti-money laundering.  

The authority said that 184 enforcement actions had been taken over the past five years (2017 - 2021), and nearly three in four had been conducted in the past two years.  

In 2021, the authority undertook a total of 173 supervisory inspections 80 of these had a special focus on anti-money laundering. 

Additionally, 195 conduct and prudential supervisory interactions on money laundering matters were carried out.

Employment on the rise

Meanwhile, the annual report says that employment within the financial services sector grew by 8.4% in 2020 and by a further 3.4% in 2021.  

The sector employed just under 14,000 people in 2021, an increase of 3.8% over the previous year. 

The Gross Value Added (GVA) generated by the sector grew from just over €800 million in 2017 to around €1 billion in 2020. 

Even though the general economy contracted by 7% in 2020 - as the island grappled with the pandemic - the GVA generated by the financial services sector for that year grew by over 5% and by a further 4.3% in 2021.

The MFSA said it received 584 new applications in 2021, a considerable increase over the 265 received in 2020. 

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