The Opposition will be submitting an amendment to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act that would see the finance minister table the names of all nominees to the board of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.
The move, they say, is aimed at creating “more transparency and accountability” in the appointment process at the extremely sensitive unit.
It also comes just as the FIAU chairman’s seat will need to be filled since the current chairman, Jesmond Gatt, is set for a move to the Malta Financial Services Authority’s top spot.
As matters currently stand, the finance minister appoints three board members by choosing one from three separate lists of people nominated respectively by the Central Bank governor, the Malta Financial Services Authority chairperson and the Malta Gaming Authority chairperson.
“The Nationalist Party stresses that good governance requires full transparency in the appointment of persons to serve in important institutions such as the FIAU which is entrusted with the fight money laundering money and the financing of terrorism,” the Opposition’s Shadow Ministers for Justice Karol Aquilina and for Finance Jerome Caruana Cilia said on Monday.
They said the Opposition would back the government’s current proposal to take decisions on the representatives of the Police Force and of the Office of the Commissioner for Revenue on the Unit’s board out of the minister’s hands, where they are at present, and to delegate those choices to the Police Commissioner and the Commissioner for Revenue themselves.
Aquilina and Caruana Cilia recalled how former finance minister Edward Scicluna, who is now Central Bank of Malta governor, had consistently refused to state the names of previous FIAU board nominees in Parliament.
They also recalled how one of the people Scicluna appointed to the FIAU’s board – former deputy [police commissioner Silvio Valletta – had to be removed from the investigation into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia after he was found to be on extremely friendly terms with the main suspect Yorgen Fenech.
Valletta had also resigned from the police force over the blatant conflict of interest of being so friendly with a murder suspect, having holidayed abroad with him and after video footage emerged of Valletta cavorting in Fenech’s Rolls Royce.
The Opposition’s move also comes just as the FIAU’s chairman’s seat is set to become vacant, with current FIAU chairman Jesmond Gatt reportedly moving just down the road to chair the Malta Financial Services Authority.
Gatt’s appointment to the FIAU had also come under a dark cloud, with the Opposition claiming in November 2020 that the appointment had been illegal.
It accused Abela and Scicluna of having thrown proper procedure to the wind, since, according to the Public Administration Act, the Prime Minister should have nominated a prospective FIAU chairman at least 20 days in advance.
It argued that Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee should have also been duly informed so that the appointment would be approved only after proper parliamentary scrutiny.
Edwina Licari was a member of the board of Governors of the FIAU. She was made to resign following the revelations of her close ties with Yorgen Fenech, include providing him with consultancy services. So how is she still allowed to be part of the MFSA Executive Commitee?