EU lawmakers urge Malta to investigate money laundering allegations

The European Commission should hold an inquiry into Malta’s anti-money laundering regime, as well as investigating last week’s murder of a Maltese investigative journalist, two EU lawmakers said today, even as Malta’s prime minister endured a cool reception at a meeting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Green MEPs Eva Joly and Sven Giegold issued a statement calling for the Maltese government “to step down”, arguing that it had “failed to take serious action against high level cases of money-laundering” in the country.

“The Maltese law enforcement authorities have failed to take any serious consequences of the findings of its own anti-money laundering authority (FIAU),” Joly and Giegold said in their statement, which was posted in the form of a press release on the Green Party’s website.

“Since the elections, little has been heard about the investigations into high level cases of corruption and money laundering. Key staff of the FIAU have lost their jobs or stepped down. A key whistleblower in the Maltese Panama Papers revelations felt obliged to flee the country. Some national investigators have conflicts of interest.

“In order to restore trust in the rule of law, we demand to appoint an international investigator whose rigor is without doubt and who will be fully involved in the investigations.”

In their statement, the two  Green Party MPs repeatedly make  reference to Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese journalist and blogger who was murdered by a car bomb last week, saying at one point that “honouring her work should mean an investigation into her revelations”.

They also provide a link to a list of questions on Malta’s money-laundering regime they and others posed to the EU’s College of Commissioners in June, and the “disappointing” response they say they received yesterday.

In that response, EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova said that, based on the information available “so far”, there appeared to be “no grounds to suspect a systematic breach of Union law pertaining to the prevention of money laundering” in Malta.

However, Jourova added that as part of the EC’s further assessment of the effective application of EU rules in this area, “the commission services have requested from the competent Maltese authorities the further information on any investigative or procedural steps to follow up the FIAU reports you refer to in your letter”.

Maltese government officials weren’t immediately available on Tuesday evening for comment.

‘Not the friendliest’

For Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat in Strasbourg, meanwhile, money laundering wasn’t the issue, so much as the Panama Papers and Malta’s tax regime, according to a report in the Malta Independent,   which described the welcome he received on a rare visit there as “not the friendliest”.

Muscat defended himself and his government, though, the Malta Independent noted, and at one point told his audience that he had expected “a more informed debate in such a house”, before then going on to refer to “lies” he said some MPs had been repeating, regarding a Panamanian company called Egrant that was mentioned in the Panama Papers, and about his wife, Michelle.

He also, the paper said, detailed a number of major changes his government had brought to Malta in an effort to progress the rule of law, including legislation designed to “hold all politicians and public officers to account for their lifetime, should any evidence crop up linking such persons to corruption” at a later date, as well as a so-called “whistle-blowers protection act”.

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