Updated 2.20pm with government's reply
While welcoming the MFSA's decision to initiate the process for the return of customer deposits from Satabank, the Nationalist Party noted that clients who had legitimate deposits were still subject to undesirable restrictions following the freezing of their accounts on Saturday.
On Wednesday, the Malta Financial Services Authority decided to start a controlled release of customer deposits at Satabank, bringing some relief to customers, many of them foreigners.
Allowing clients access to their accounts subject to a number of conditions - in particular the opening of a new bank account in the case of clients whose sole account was with Satabank - required a lengthy process and would pose further distress and financial difficulties, finance and economy spokesmen Mario de Marco and Kristy Debono said.
They said in a statement that it was imperative for the MFSA to take immediate action and ensure that the financial risks would be managed in a swift manner and where necessary compensated for.
They noted that the MFSA had been economical with sharing information in spite of calls for more effective and legitimate communication with Satabank's customers, be it individual or companies.
“Our country's reputation is critically at stake, where the private sector and legitimate investors are paying the price for government's passiveness to restore it,” they said.
In a reply, the government said it supported the MFSA’s recent action, which clearly showed that the country's institutions were working, and working well.
The Opposition’s criticism of the action taken by the MFSA, an independent authority, was hypocritical as, until recently, the Opposition had criticised the MFSA for not taking action, which was not the case at all.
The financial services sector and the jobs of the thousands of people it employed were put in jeopardy when those meant to help safeguard it did the opposite to score cheap political points, the government said.
It added that this sector should not be used as a political football - a golden rule that has been adhered to for many years until it was broken by the Opposition which mounted a local and international campaign aimed at harming the country for political gain.
The financial services sector, the government said, should not be seen as a political tool, but as a tool to nurture economic growth. Institutions should be left to do their work in peace, without harmful exterior pressure.
This government was committed to giving the regulator the necessary tools to combat abuses, so consumers had the necessary protection. And it had already piloted a reform which would strengthen the MFSA, applying several European directives including the ‘anti-money laundering directive’.
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