The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) officially confirmed during a press briefing this evening that Malta, after 12 months of increased monitoring is now off the grey list.
Malta was placed on the grey list in June last year following an assessment that identified “serious deficiencies”, after which the Maltese government agreed to an action plan that is now completed, FATF president Marcus Pleyer said.
“As a result, it is now better placed to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing. A FATF team held a successful on-site visit in April, and the FATF congratulates Malta for being removed from the list,” he added
The president of the FATF, an intergovernmental organisation considered to be a global standard for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing practices, further encouraged Malta to “continue this momentum”. In particular, he stressed the need for the implementation of reforms.
“This means it still needs to continue improving implementation of its laws – implementation is essential here – particularly in relation to the laundering of illegal proceeds from tax evasion and foreign proceeds of crime,” Pleyer said.
When Malta became the first European country to be placed on the grey list last year, Pleyer emphasised that two key issues were the lack of transparency on the ultimate beneficial owners of companies and the weak financial intelligence on tax crimes were two key issues.
“Since then, Malta has doubled the resources of their business registry, they conducted a thorough risk assessment and set out to inspect all of them,” Pleyer said during Friday’s press briefing.
“Malta has successfully identified companies that have concealed their true owners and as a result, significantly more penalties were imposed in 2021 against companies,” the president added.
The FATF also voiced its satisfaction with the implementation of “effective and dissuasive penalties” with professionals and business entities who are in a position to enable financial crime, including lawyers, accountants and company service providers.
As for weak financial intelligence and how that affects law enforcement efforts, the FATF’s president said Malta “enhanced the use of financial intelligence to combat money laundering linked to tax crimes”.
When asked about the lack of convictions of former politicians and high-ranking officials linked with financial crime in Malta, Pleyer stressed that the agency’s remit is to assess systems in place: “The FATF is not an operational agency: we are not investigating concrete cases. We are checking whether the overall AML-CFT system is robust enough to effectively address the risks that a country has.”
Pleyer added that Malta’s efforts to address the action plans imposed by the FATF’s regional body, MONEYVAL, began before the country was greylisted and that “Malta is at the end of a long period of reforms that will hopefully continue”, which the organisation will be monitoring.