'Political interference in FATF verdict could open Pandora's box' - minister

Clyde Caruana has departed from his usually sober self as he warns of “ulterior political motives” that could undermine Malta’s evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force

Clyde Caruana
Clyde Caruana

Clyde Caruana has departed from his usually sober self as he warns of “ulterior political motives” that could undermine Malta’s evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force.

In a pointed Facebook post in Maltese, the Finance Minister said government will be forced to take the necessary steps to protect the national interest if this happens.

Caruana said that Malta passed from all the points in the technical exam undertaken by the Council of Europe body, Moneyval. The report is now being discussed by the Financial Action Task Force, an international body.

“If we follow logic that a country should pass the test on the basis of this exercise, Malta will pass. But if the technical process is subverted by ulterior political motives, the outcome could open a Pandora’s Box. If this happens, this will be unjust with all the serious work that is being done and was done over the past year-and-a-half and it will neither do justice with the Maltese people,” Caruana wrote.

It is the FATF, which is also swayed by US influence, that has the final word on the whether Malta is placed on the grey list, which would be a signal to the global financial and banking system about heightened risks from transactions with Malta.

A final decision by the FATF is expected on 23 June.

Caruana said that irrespective of Malta’s size, it remained a sovereign country with an identity, a flag and a national anthem.

“Just as other countries protect their interests, we will also take all the necessary steps to protect the interests of our country and our people,” he insisted.

Evarist Bartolo
Evarist Bartolo

Evarist Bartolo: ‘We do not deserve to be grey-listed’

The minister for Foreign Affairs Evarist Bartolo has said he feels Malta does not deserve to be grey-listed as it has carried out recommendations as instructed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

“I am not a prophet, and so I cannot say what will happen, but what I know is that we have done our utmost to not get grey-listed,” the minister said.

Bartolo said Moneyval has stated the country was among the first to be largely compliant with the FATF recommendations. “We have changed laws and set up structures. We have really done a lot,” he said.

The minister said Malta has addressed in a “basic and radical way” the measures we needed to introduce on money laundering, due diligence and rule of law.

“I don’t think we deserve to be grey-listed,” Bartolo said.

A formal position could be announced on 23 June during the plenary meeting of the FATF.

Bernard Grech
Bernard Grech

Bernard Grech writes to FATF

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Bernard Grech has written to the FATF to assure them that as an alternative government his party would restore Malta’s international reputation.

He said it was worrying that the US, the UK and Germany had taken a position against Malta in yesterday’s FATF meeting.

“This is a matter of national importance that can negatively impact the financial services industry and the gaming sector among others. The political responsibility for this falls squarely on the Labour government. It needs a change in mentality and not an exercise of ticking boxes as Robert Abela has said,” Grech said.

He added that after years of sacrifices to build the industry, Malta should have never been put in this position.

More in Business