Malta’s poor showing in a recent evaluation of its anti-money laundering regime is being disputed by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna on the grounds that the findings were “leaked” midway through the process.
Moreover, he lashed out against those whom he accused of “instigating” the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering within the Council of Europe (Moneyval) – the entity which made this review - to take action against Malta.
Prof. Scicluna made these remarks when addressing social partners in a joint session of the Malta Council of Economic and Social Development and the Malta EU Action Steering Committee. The meeting, which was held at the Central Bank, focused on the 2019 National Reform Programme, which is meant to implement the annual recommendations issued to Malta by the European Commission, known as the country specific recommendations.
Last month The Sunday Times of Malta reported that Malta had failed the first stage of a Moneyval test, which measures the country’s compliance with principal international standards to counter money laundering, and the effectiveness of their implementation. In view of this, the government was scrambling to improve its final score before the publication of the finalised report next summer.
In his address, the Finance Minister said he was aggrieved that a draft version of the report had been leaked. He noted that the evaluation by Moneyval was a long process which normally takes an entire year.
“Somebody leaked this document midway through this process. We are in the eighth phase out of 15. This was confidential, as it would only be fair to publish it at the end when the process is complete,” he told social partners.
While expressing concern that such leak was putting the entire process “in jeopardy” he added that Malta would have to suffer the consequences.
Prof. Scicluna also questioned the size the Moneyval delegation which visited Malta, late last year.
“As a result of the fuss created about Malta, the Moneyval team which came to Malta was the largest ever,” he said.
The Finance Minister lamented that contrary to what used to happen in the past when such evaluation was carried out “serenely”, this time around it was a different story.
“If you believe in this institution, you have to let it do its job. Do not try instigate it by feeding it directly with information, or by sending a letter through the council of Europe,” he said.
Prof. Scicluna said that he wanted to share this experience so that all those present for the meeting could reach their own conclusions.
In his address, the Finance Minister also reacted to recent data published by the National Statistics Office, from which it transpired that government registered a €70.2 million deficit in 2018.
Prof. Scicluna downplayed these figures saying that they were based only cash flows, and do not give the wider picture.
“It is like a cash register recording at the end of daily business, which does not into account other transactions,” he said.
The finance minister expressed himself confident that on April 23, when fresh data is scheduled to come out from the EU’s statistics office, Malta would not register a deficit in view of certain adjustments which need to be made.
“There is nothing indicating that there will not be a surplus,” he said.
Taking a dig at newspaper reports and at government’s critics he cautioned against rushing to conclusions on the matter.
“Foreigners are thinking Malta is keeping its finances afloat thanks to the citizenship programme only. We have to demonstrate that even if one had to put aside the revenue from the IIP (Individual Investor Programme), there would still be a surplus,” he said.
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