The secrecy provisions in anti-money laundering laws are being abused to keep the public in the dark on criminal activity by top people in the government, Nationalist MEP David Casa told The Shift in reaction to the Prime Minister’s warning in Parliament yesterday.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Tuesday insisted that the laws governing Malta’s anti-money laundering agency – Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) – had to be safeguarded by people with political responsibility.
Muscat said he would not mention any names so as not to politicise the matter, but it was understood as a warning to Casa who has said he holds a report hidden by the FIAU that calls for Minister Konrad Mizzi to be investigated for money laundering.
Casa immediately reacted to the Prime Minister’s comment on Facebook yesterday, saying he was “not impressed”. He also said he would be releasing the report in the coming weeks.
Speaking to The Shift, Casa said the purpose of such strict secrecy laws related to FIAU investigations was to prevent the person being investigated from absconding or prejudicing the investigation by, for example, hiding evidence. But this was being abused to protect Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri.
“In the case of Mizzi and Schembri, evidence linking them to criminal activity has now been in the public domain for some time. But the secrecy provisions in AML legislation are abused to keep people in the dark. To conceal the fact that the required action has not been taken. To protect corrupt politicians. It is nothing more than a brazen distortion of the legal framework for devious ends,” Casa said.
The FIAU has insisted that the release of the report was illegal.
MEPs from all political parties expressed deep concern on the rule of law in Malta, during a debate last week discussing the conclusions of a fact-finding mission to Malta.
Socialist MEP Ana Gomes presented the draft mission report on Malta to the Civil Liberties Committee and members of the former Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance (PANA).
Following a fact-finding mission in Malta, Gomes said that the MEP delegation “came seriously concerned over the rule of law in Malta and left even more worried”.
Gomes said both Schembri and Mizzi were viewed as being corrupt, especially after FIAU reports had been leaked to the press. However, Gomes said, the police and the Attorney General had failed to act on these investigations as these were “blocked by the government”.