European Commissioner for Justice Vĕra Jourová criticised Malta’s track record on corruption, money laundering and security, as well as the passport sales scheme that has so far issued over 700 individuals in exchange for investments and cash donations to the government since 2014.
“Money laundering, citizenship for sale, security, corruption all pose a threat to security, the rule of law and democracy,” together with killings of journalists and harassment from public servants on civil society.
Jourová started by referring to the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, saying it was a wake up call. The safety of journalists is a concern for all of the EU because journalists are our watchdogs in a democracy, she said.
“Who is really responsible? We need to know mastermind. He cannot go unpunished. There is no place in the EU for the murder of journalists. This is not only a Maltese issue. Press freedom is at stake, this is crucial for our democracies. We have a special responsibility. We have to create an environment where journalists can do their job even if you don’t like what they write”.
The Commissioner said the fight against money-laundering and terrorism funding must be stepped up. She said the challenge was not only about protecting our financial services because the sector affected other sectors and other countries. “We don’t want any country to become a safe haven for money,” Jourová said.
She stressed Malta’s need to adhere to theAnti-Money Laundering (AML) Directive. “We see the shortcomings of the AML directive’s implementation in the Pilatus Bank case, which is why I asked the European Banking Authority to investigate. We are looking at how Malta… we see some gaps in how it was implemented and we need Malta to fill in the gaps”.
She said registers on the ultimate beneficial owners of companies (referred to as UBOs) need to be fully public.
She welcomed Malta’s decision to join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office: “This is good news for the fight against financial crime, to better protect taxpayers’ money”. Malta joins 20 other States already committed.
The Commissioner also expressed concern about Malta’s cash-for-passports programme, which she said included the sale of right of free movement. “Granting citizenship in one country affects all of the EU. The Commission’s concern is to guarantee that EU citizenship is delivered to people who actually have links to the country in which they apply for citizenship,” she said.