Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi has demanded investigations by the police and National Audit Office into the potential misuse of public funds after revealing the government spent €3 million on marketing Malta’s “blockchain flop”.

Speaking in parliament, Azzopardi slammed the government for spending so much on the ‘Blockchain Island’ spin.

He quoted Finance Minister Clyde Caruana as admitting the blockchain island was nothing but a buzzword.

Azzopardi said the Finance Minister had admitted that Malta’s embrace of risky cryptocurrencies had contributed to Malta’s greylisting by the financial action task force, a global anti-money laundering watchdog.

In 2018, at the height of Malta’s ‘blockchain island’ hype, several big names in the cryptocurrency exchange world announced they would be setting up shop here in anticipation of a new set of laws.

Many of those companies started operating in a limited away, without a licence, as a generous “transitory period” of up to one year was allowed by Malta.

At the time, industry sources had told Times of Malta that the first year of Malta’s blockchain dreams had quickly turned into the “wild west”.

A senior regulator had said authorities were faced with an explosion of high-risk transactions carried out by cryptocurrency exchanges in an unlicensed environment.

The PN MP said pensioners, workers and students would all suffer because of the greylisting, yet the government had not even offered so much as an apology.

Azzopardi said the consultant who had coined the term blockchain island now wanted nothing to do with it.

He said the government had landed the country in a situation where foreign investors shunned Malta, and Maltese youths see no future here.

“This is the dichotomy the country is in. The government has lost its sense of conscience.

It could have used the €3 million to help the elderly, who are struggling to make ends meet,” Azzopardi said.

The veteran MP said he had never encountered so many people complaining about the high cost of living during house visits in his constituency.

Azzopardi also had harsh words for the police’s financial crimes department, accusing them of failing to investigate government corruption.

Opposition cut off from reality - Schembri

In a later speech, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said the Opposition benches are cut off from reality, as people have nothing but praise about the government’s management of the economy.

He said the country enjoyed record low levels of unemployment, despite the economic challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I go on house visits too…I am thanked for our efforts whenever I visit people. They always reassure me that they trust the government”, Schembri said.

Schembri said the PN MP had still not understood the difference between blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

The minister said Schembri was economical with the truth, as FATF president Marcus Pleyer had himself confirmed Malta’s embrace of cryptocurrencies had not let to Malta’s grey listing.

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