Updated at 5.50pm - Adds Dr de Marco's reply

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna wrote that the damning reports by the international media and various EU institutions on the abject shortcomings of our authorities and institutions can be traced to one source (‘Keeping up appearances’, July 18). On this point, the minister and I agree. There is one source and it is no other than Scicluna himself.

All the failings, or to use the jargon used by the European Banking Authority, all the “general and systematic shortcomings” happened under his watch. He failed to ensure the authorities carry out their duties efficiently and effectively. He chose to ignore the clear signs that not all was good on the FIAU’s front. He chose to protect his Cabinet colleagues rather than the officers and authorities under his political wing.

On April 27, 2016, Michael Cassar, then commissioner of police, resigned. Scicluna cannot claim he had no clue why Cassar resigned.

The Times of Malta had written: “Former police commissioner Michael Cassar walked away from his role a day after the government’s anti-money laundering agency, FIAU, recommended further investigation into the Prime Minister’s top aide, Keith Schembri”.

Up to that point, the FIAU was doing its job. It was working without fear or favour.

In its hour of need, the FIAU expected the political support of its minister.

Regrettably, he turned his back on the FIAU. In August 2016, Manfred Galdes, the FIAU head, also resigned. After these two significant resignations, things within the FIAU took a turn for the worse.

The FIAU arbitrarily sacked two officers, including former police inspector Jonathan Ferris who is now seeking whistleblower protection.

To date, Scicluna refused to state if and how he was involved in the dismissal of these officers. These officers were fired within days of Labour’s re-election, after Scicluna publicly questioned if certain FIAU reports were written to be leaked.

Last week, when cornered by journalists, Scicluna again tried to sow doubts on the authors of those damning reports rather than condemn the subjects of the reports.

His mumbled half replies at a press event and his opinion piece published in this newspaper stink of desperation. How else can you describe his assertion that the European Banking Authority, the International Consortium of Investigating Journalists, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the European Commission and the European Parliament are somehow working at the behest of the Nationalist Party?

We are seeing before us the wilting away of what was once a solid reputation.

Scicluna gambled his reputation when he chose to stand by his colleagues who were the subjects of damning FIAU reports. He chose them over the national interest.

He says the Opposition is calling for his head. Of course, we are. But we are not the only ones. This call is being echoed by the independent media and civil society.

In a normal democracy, a minister faced with the EBA report conclusions would have resigned before any such call was made.

We are seeing before us the wilting away of what was once a solid reputation

In a normal democracy, a Prime Minister would have waited 10 minutes for his minister to hand in his resignation before picking up the phone and sacking the minister.

But we are no longer living in a normal democracy. What we have is a reprehensible protection racket that extends from the Office of the Prime Minister right down to the public authorities.

I have no doubt that Galdes and Cassar realised the sorry state of affairs and wanted to play no part in this racket.

There is no doubt in my mind Scicluna fully understood the gravity of the situation way back in February 2016, when it was revealed that the highest echelons in the government set up secret offshore structures around the globe within weeks of their taking office.

He is the most academically- and professionally-qualified person around the Cabinet table on these matters.

Right then he should have stood his ground. He did not and ended up with every day that passed being pulled deeper into this black hole by his corrupt colleagues.

Sadly, he can no longer be considered as a silent witness. He is now a wilful collaborator who has been caught out.

The EBA has delivered its verdict, which is damning not only on the FIAU but more so on Scicluna who is responsible for this sad state of affairs.

He gambled and lost. He should do the honourable thing and go, before doing further damage to the reputation of our country. His attack on the EBA and other European institutions was embarrassing, to say the least.

I read in a local news portal that local operators from the financial services sector were taken aback by his comments and rightly so. The minister is now gambling with their future.

There are, as the minister pointed out, more reports in the offing. The EBA is penning one on the Malta Financial Services Authority. Our authorities are under investigation. Not because of the PN. Not because of the independent media, national or international. But all because of the fact that Scicluna did not carry out his duty.

He claims he failed to act, to respect the independence of these authorities.

Nonsense. It is clear to all he failed to act precisely for the opposite reason that is to undermine the independence of these authorities.

Minister Scicluna, your time is up.

Mario de Marco is shadow finance minister.

Labour Party's reaction

The PL said in a statement that it was understandable that Dr de Marco found himself in a state of denial and in a panic mode at the present time and this might in some way explain his opinion piece.

His beloved party was in tatters a few months before an important election and key members of his party were exposed as having connived with third parties to destabilise the country by a diabolical plot cum frame-up on the incumbent Prime Minister.

This involved forged documents, fraud, libel, and false witness. The big lie could not be evidenced more than by the spectacle of the PN’s key so-called whistleblowers calling each other a liar on social media.

Dr Demarco, the PL said, needed to be advised that he was not a fit and proper person to give lessons to anyone on money laundering issues, least of all to the current Finance Minister whose credentials during the past and current legislation were acknowledged by everyone.

"It is Dr Demarco’s prerogative to persist in defending, as a criminal lawyer, cases like the recent serious Ndrangheta case on money laundering.

"However, for the sake of the country and the rule of law, he cannot be allowed to meddle in money laundering legislation or regulation as the PN spokesperson for finance," the PL said.

Dr de Marco replies

Later, Dr de Marco said the statement completely ignoreds the pertinent points and questions he raised and was just a personal attack.

When a lawyer defended a client, he said, that lawyer was doing his duty. But when a minister defended a licensed institution whose owner was charged with money laundering activities, when a minister defends colleagues who were the subject of FIAU reports on money laundering activities, then the minister was abusing his duty.

The statement was further confirmation, Dr de Marco said, that Prof. Scicluna's time as minister was up.


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