[WATCH] Scicluna tells industry: Malta must 'score more goals' on financial crime

More cases of fraud, tax evasion and corruption need to be brought to justice, if Malta is to regain its credibility as a democracy that upholds the rule of law

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna

All of Malta’s efforts towards good governance and rebuilding its reputation in financial circles would be for naught unless the country was seen to be winning against tax evasion, money laundering and corruption, the finance minister stressed today.

Speaking to MaltaToday after addressing a closed-door seminar for players in the financial services sector, ‘The road to meaningful reform’, Edward Scicluna said it was imperative that the government and all its agencies be seen to be scoring and winning the game, while comparing the fight against financial crime to a football match.

The minister said he told those attending that if Malta’s reputation in international financial circles were to return to its former stature, the country needed to start scoring some goals.

“Talking about our efforts is fine, albeit useless unless we score,” he said. “At the end of the game, you need to see how many goals you scored and if you did not score, your credibility will suffer and you will not be taken seriously.”

And are we ahead? Are we winning? we asked. Scicluna’s reply was a stark, “No.”

“We need to ensure that our institutions cooperate in order to score, that we bring some cases to justice,” he said.

It was unacceptable that agencies and institutions prepared and worked on cases for months, without anyone ever being finally brought to justice.

Scicluna noted that some significant action had already been registered, for example in the case of three banks which had their operating license withdrawn or was in the process of being withdrawn.

“But with regards to prosecution, we need to see more results. I know for a fact that there are five serious cases of tax evasion that will be taken to court in the near future, for the first time.”

Scicluna said that, especially with major cases, people needed to start seeing results in the form of charges and prosecution.

“That would go a long way towards starting to rebuild the country’s reputation,” he said.

Peter Omtzigt visit

With regards to today’s visit to by Dutch MP Peter Omtzigt, rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Scicluna said it was not impossible for Malta to return to be seen to be a full democracy that upholds the rule of law.

Omtzigt, who had authored a report demanding a public inquiry and put pressure on the Maltese government to raise the inquiry’s standards as recommended by the Council’s parliamentary assembly, will be meeting Prime Minister Robert Abela and government ministers, include Scicluna.

The minister said Malta had a rich and proud history of being a country that upheld the rule of law.

“That does not mean that there were no abuse or that some things do not need changing,” he said. “But what I will be telling Omtzigt, is that it is not so impossible for Malta to once again be seen as a country that upholds standards and the rule of law.”

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