The watchdogs that didn’t bark

If the FATF had any doubts about the need to greylist Malta, they will have been expunged by how the matter has been discussed in Malta since. We should consider the compromising silences as well as the embarrassing things said.

First, the watchdogs that didn’t bark; or, rather, the pussycats that didn’t miaow.

Several economic institutions and constituted bodies issued statements after Wednesday’s news. But not the Central Bank of Malta or the Malta Financial Services Authority. As of the time of writing (yesterday), their websites haven’t carried a new press release since the greylisting.

Don’t they have anything to say? They are directly concerned with the calamitous news. They are supposed to be autonomous bodies — but, apparently, with nothing autonomous to say. The FATF must be impressed.

I can understand, of course, that it would be embarrassing for Edward Scicluna, the governor of the CBM, and John Mamo, chair of the MFSA, to issue a statement. Scicluna was finance minister until last year, and he had a significant part in the making of this mess. Mamo is the man who, before parliament, dismissed the gravity of the compromising behaviour in which two of his then top officials were involved.

If either Scicluna or Mamo had issued institutional statements of reassurance, therefore, it would have caused great outrage. But they would have heaped ridicule on themselves had they issued a stern statement, when they were among the causes of the problem.

They have therefore chosen the third option, silence. It simply confirms the bind they’re personally in. Their compromises have compromised them to the point where they choose to keep silent rather than do their minimal duty of issuing a statement, like every other self-respecting institutional player.

They’re no longer in a position to do their job effectively: to be visible guarantors of the autonomy of the institutions they lead. They should resign, the best thing they can do to help us get started on the path to recovery.

Next, there have been the narratives to explain what brought us to this point and the way forward.

About the real causes and blame, Marcus Pleyer, the President of the FATF, was as clear as a man in his position could be. He said that Malta had addressed the issues on paper but there remained serious doubts about the will of the authorities to crack down on criminal activity by applying sanctions and conducting high level prosecutions.

Here’s the six-word translation: The crooks are still running around.

So what’s with all these platitudes about the hard work that’s needed by everyone, the entire country working together, so that we can get off the FATF’s grey list? What’s this about everybody needing to be part of the process? It misses the entire point of what Pleyer said.

The moment we say that we must all work hard and be part of the process, the outstanding cause is misidentified. The blame is diffused. The government is indirectly absolved of both causing the problem and not doing enough to solve it.

Every time it says the greylisting is “unjust” because it addressed 55 out of the 58 serious issues identified in 2019, the government unwittingly condemns itself.

The 58 serious issues reveal just how much the Joseph Muscat governments let things go to seed.

The 55 addressed issues reveal that the real remaining problem was that Robert Abela’s government was not trusted enough to implement them — at least not without some external shock.

The Malta Employers Association has characterised the shock as a ‘terrible auto goal for the economy’ all due to a ‘minority of dishonest politicians and businesses’. We all know what the MEA means. All analogies have their limits, however, and this one suggests we were all playing on the same team. Were we?

The proper image is of a crony government, in league with some crooked businessmen, playing against the rest of Malta’s economic players, who are handicapped by unfair conditions and intimidated by the government’s ultras in the stands. The government committed a variety of fouls, received several yellow cards, but ignored them. Finally, it got a red card.

The limits of the analogy are reached here. Red cards usually benefit the other team. In this case, however, the red card has seen even the honest players punished. Although, if the crooks are punished, then the honest team would in the long run benefit — they’d be able to compete on their merits.

The least we can do is recognise where the blame lies and say so. It’s our best chance of getting the government to summon the political will that’s so far been lacking.

                           
                               
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James
James
3 months ago

Yet another reasoned article by Ranier and you only have to read what has happened to Matt Hancock, the disgraced health minister in the U.K, in the last 24 hours for Ranier’s submissions to be vindicated.

There has been and will continue to be no change as long as the team at the top continue to pull strings. Just look at the number of prominent figures who are “ under investigation “ months and years after their transgressions first came into the public domain via the efforts of Daphne and the ICIJ…compare how quickly Hancock was removed!!

No wonder the MEPs and FATF don’t believe a single word from the Government is it??

Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
3 months ago
Reply to  James

How can Bobby and the present government institutions act against ‘the gang’ they are a part of?

Last edited 3 months ago by Simon Oosterman
James
James
3 months ago

Simon. I fear the reality is that there will be no action by Bobby and his fellows because as you point out all those implicated are indeed part of “ the gang” . They are window dressing as they have done for years but at last their bluffing has been called. It will take intervention from outside to force the changes needed because there is absolutely no intention to self administer the medicine!

Gee Mike
Gee Mike
3 months ago

So far Labour had had managed to hoodwink the EU, Moneyval, and all the rest. FATF seems less likely to fall for the usual dodging techniques Labour have developed.
We will not be off the grey list anytime soon.
So far Robert contends that FATF are wrong! Joseph agrees.
We have nothing to fix:
FATF Needs to fix their grey list criteria to accommodate the best economy of the Universe.

Robert Agius
Robert Agius
3 months ago

Unless the political criminals are brought to justice, ie jailed for crimes against Malta and its citizens, Ed will not be white listed. Doubt it will happen in my lifetime.

Philip Micallef
Philip Micallef
3 months ago

What the Icelandic Minister Of Justice Aslaug had said in 2019 when Iceland got into the FATF gey list:

”Landing on a list like this has a major impact on the Icelandic economy, not just financial companies but almost all companies going international business. If Iceland is to participate in the international business community, the government must ensure that they fulfil all the necessary conditions so that we can conduct business without unnecessary obstacles.”

Hopefully our politicians will accept all the shortcomings and face the facts.

Saviour Mamo
Saviour Mamo
3 months ago

Not even word of anger came from the president of Malta, George Vella.

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
3 months ago
Reply to  Saviour Mamo

Shameful as usual. After all he lived for years within the criminal party, and supported it blindfoldedly. He thanked the European dodger and most corrupt person of the year 2019, for giving him the honour to be made President, someting he never expected he said publicly, when he hosted the gang of criminals at the Palace.

Saviour Mamo
Saviour Mamo
3 months ago

Wherever he goes, he takes the grey label with him

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
3 months ago

‘ They have therefore chosen the third option, silence. ‘
Silence is complicity.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
3 months ago

It now seems that jerry ( Z ) lewis is nowhere to be seen nor heard.
Maybe jerry is still ticking the boxes of corruption of the disgraced joseph muscat.

Robert
Robert
3 months ago

Good article. The issue is simple. Changes done were superficial – on paper but not applied in practice. The drive for business growth remain strong and strict application of the changes is considered a business stopper. Discipline has to be introduced. Subject persons cannot charge their tyres whilst driving fast – they need to pit stop, do the repairs and then continue to race. Authorities have to enforce this.

Salvu Felice-Pace
Salvu Felice-Pace
3 months ago
Reply to  Robert

There must be a call for all pending Magisterial Inquiries relating to governance to finish their work and publish the outcomes. I heard that the one about Pilatus Bank has been finished some time ago, what are we waiting for? No prosecutions, no solutions.

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