Opinion: Labour’s escape route for criminals

Just before Christmas, the government rushed through parliament a law to protect criminals’ access to their ill-gotten gains.

That law, vaguely named ‘The Act to amend various laws relating to the proceeds of crime”, put the burden on prosecutors to prove how much money the accused had stolen before the court could freeze the equivalent value in assets.

The first man to resort to Labour’s new law to regain access to his assets was Yorgen Fenech, the man accused of commissioning the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Why is Labour always on the side of crooks and criminals? Why is Labour so efficient in enacting legislation protecting the interests of those accused of serious financial crimes? Why was Labour so rushed to pass that legislation just before Christmas?

Labour’s new law is an utter mess.  Don’t take my word for it – listen to what Madam Justice Edwina Grima had to say.

She condemned the botched law for having “too many loopholes”. She expressed her despair and that of her judicial colleagues, who “were at a loss as to how to apply the law, especially in pending cases”.

She said: “How can I decide on a freezing order unless I hear and decide on the merits of the case? This does not make sense.”

She’s right.  Labour’s law makes no sense for those seeking to deliver justice.  It only makes sense to those seeking the interests of those charged with serious financial crimes – people like Keith Schembri, Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Adrian Hillman, Chris Borg, Yorgen Fenech.

Labour chose to fast-track the one law that protects suspected criminals. Yet it ignored the Caruana Galizia inquiry’s recommendation to introduce legislation to combat financial crime, bribery, and corruption. I wonder why.

The Caruana Galizia inquiry report was published almost three years ago.  It didn’t just recommend the introduction of “unexplained wealth orders”; it declared this mandatory.

Hemm ħtieġa ta’ ligi (here is the need for a law),” the report stated. It wasn’t a suggestion; it was a declaration of the need for such legislation to fight financial crime.

Such legislation should require the suspect to prove that any wealth possessed was acquired legitimately. Failure to prove the licit provenance of that wealth results in the confiscation of those assets by the State.

That sounds pretty fair to me. If you can show that you acquired what you own legitimately, it’s yours. If you can’t prove it, the State will take it and use it for the public’s benefit and to compensate victims of your crimes once you are found guilty.

In August 2020, Syedur Rahman, a financial crime specialist, wrote an article titled ‘Malta now appears less than keen to introduce Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs)’.

He noted that “Malta appears to have shelved plans to make Unexplained Wealth Orders a part of its legal system”. He reported that then-Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis’s attempt to introduce the law had been blocked by his government colleagues.

Unexplained Wealth Orders are a powerful tool to tackle money laundering and corruption.  They allow law enforcement agencies to recover assets when there is reasonable suspicion that they were acquired through crime.

Rahman commented that “it is perhaps not surprising that the concept of Unexplained Wealth Orders hasn’t gained much support in Malta”, where there are “less than adequate systems and controls in place for tackling money laundering and financial crime”.

That was August 2020, eight months after Robert Abela became prime minister.

A year later, he apologised for the State’s responsibility for the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.  He pledged to hold public consultations on implementing the inquiry report’s recommendations.

“My government will take on the responsibility to implement these recommendations,” he promised.

Almost three years later, Robert Abela not only failed to implement any of the Caruana Galizia recommendations, but he shamelessly attacked the ‘behaviour’ of the members of that board of inquiry.

He doubted their integrity, their objectives and their character.  He publicly declared: “No, I am not going to implement” in answer to a journalist’s question as to whether he would implement the recommendations of that inquiry.

Labour had a golden opportunity to beef up prosecutors’ arsenal for combatting corruption, money laundering and financial crime. But Robert Abela blocked it.

Abela’s new law allows those accused of corruption, money laundering and other serious financial crimes to continue running their businesses.  That’s exactly what Keith Schembri is doing.  That’s exactly what Yorgen Fenech is demanding.

Labour’s sudden rush to enact legislation protecting those suspected of corruption and money laundering wasn’t triggered by public interest.

They weren’t motivated by a desire to protect State assets from pilfering by corrupt politicians and their criminal associates. Labour wasn’t concerned about retrieving the millions of public funds siphoned off through Vitals and Steward to Accutor AG, which miraculously found their way into Joseph Muscat’s bank account. Quite the contrary.

Justice Minister Jonathan Attard was challenged as to why he was ramming the legislation through parliament at breakneck speed in the run-up to Christmas.  He immediately went on the offensive:  “Those opposing this law are only doing so because they are populist and want to object to everything the government proposes”.

Maybe that’s why Madam Justice Edwina Grima declared Attard’s botched legislation “makes no sense” and that it has “too many loopholes” – she’s just a populist, intent on obstructing Labour, not an upstanding member of the judiciary seeking to deliver justice.


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saviour mamo
saviour mamo
1 month ago

The government is able to survive because Labour is intrinsically criminal.

paul pullicino
paul pullicino
1 month ago

Someone recently said words to the effect that the people’s verdict trumps everything, forgives everything which means that the Executive is above the law.

Erminia calleja
Erminia calleja
30 days ago

Labour is the true traitor of our people. They will do anything in their power to save their skins and enexplained wealth. Protests against these criminals are in order

Saviour Mamo
Saviour Mamo
30 days ago

If Rosianne Cutajar wants to make an apology it should be addressed to the people and not to Robert Abela. Abela knew all along what Cutajar was up to.

23 days ago

With rejecting the ineffectiveness of Unexplained Wealth Orders, The prime example is simply looking after his own interests where it comes to “how DOES he pay for all these properties, expensive boat, etc., etc”.

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