Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, who complained he could not even catch a taxi without being asked about corruption in Malta to launch a tirade against those who he said had tried to sully Malta’s good reputation with “false allegations“, has approved a direct order of over €2 million to fight money laundering.
The Finance Ministry paid €2.75 million on international consultants Oliver Wyman for the “provision of support with implementation of the anti-money laundering directive and combatting financial terrorism strategy.
The direct order was approved in July last year, yet it was only announced in the government gazette last Friday. The timeline shows that when Scicluna made the announcement last September that he was irked by constant remarks everywhere he went, saying “unfortunately this was started by fellow Maltese,” the Finance Minister already knew the problem was far greater.
The island, Scicluna said, was doing better in reducing VAT evasion than other EU states that were home to some who would come to Malta to “lecture us on the rule of law”. He had said they were trying to sully Malta’s good reputation by spreading “false allegations”.
The company contracted by Scicluna – Oliver Wyman – states it ‘helps’ because “we know you don’t have time for a learning curve”. It came at a heft price tag.
In addition to this, the budget for Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) was increased six-fold, from €1.6 million to €10.6 million – an additional financial burden.
Last month, Scicluna told US news programme 60 Minutes that reports of widespread corruption did not depict a true picture of the situation in Malta.
Three months earlier, Scicluna had said, “there were some who wished to portray Malta as a country in the clutches of the mafia and organised crime”. He and other members of the government, he had said, were working tirelessly to repair the island’s reputation.
The country has all the relevant international bodies on money laundering and the rule of law circling around it – the European Banking Authority, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and the European Commission – but the Finance Minister keeps insisting it’s all a conspiracy theory.
That effort is costing taxpayers millions of euro, excluding the rest of the millions spent on reputation management – the service of covering up wrongdoing by creating an alternative illusion.
Meanwhile, Scicluna last week dismissed concerns by the European Commission on Malta’s cash for passport programme opening up Europe to money laundering, corruption and organised crime.
He participated in a debate organised on the fringes of the World Economic Summit at Davos last week to promote the firm’s latest marketing concept for selling citizenship. He piled praise on the programme, talking about economic benefits and the investment of global skills and resources into Malta.
He made no mention of what taxpayers are having to fork out to keep this illusion alive, or the concerns on Malta’s cash for passport scheme, including allegations of kickbacks to the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.
Scicluna was not listed on the list of participants at the World Economic Forum, which raises the question of who paid for his trip to Davos, Switzerland.
This presents a problem whether it was Henley & Partners paying for his trip and accommodation at one of the most expensive places at the busiest time of the year, or the bill was footed by taxpayers.
There was no announcement by the Department of Information (DOI) on any official visit by the Finance Minister. The government’s information service simply released photos saying the Finance Minister was participating in a panel discussion (without saying what it was about) and then saying he had a meeting with the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne.
In reality, Browne was also just another member of the panel promoting Henley & Partners’ promotion of its citizenship programme. In fact, DOI photos were not from their newsroom, suggesting no press accompanied the Finance Minister.
It raised further questions on whether Scicluna travelled there for the sole purpose of Henley & Partners’ launch, and the government justified it as necessary to hold another meeting with another island nobody can locate on a map.
Scicluna has repeatedly insisted that there is no more corruption than before in Malta. Yet,he seems to be spending way too much of his time and taxpayers’ money on defending warped policies on the one hand, while commtting millions of euro of taxpayers’ money budgets to dismiss claims.