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EU Justice Commissioner ‘fears gaps’ in Malta’s anti-money laundering rules

EBA investigation could lead to infringement procedures

Video: Chris Sant Fournier

EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová on Thursday expressed her fears that there were gaps in Malta’s anti-money laundering rules.

Addressing a press conference during the first part of a two-day visit to Malta, Ms Jourová spoke about her concern on the events surrounding Pilatus Bank.

The Commissioner said there were gaps in the country’s implementation of the EU’s latest anti-money laundering laws.

Ms Jourová emphasised the cross-border aspect of money-laundering, saying that money laundered in one country could often support crime in another EU country.

She said the Commission would like to see Malta do more to improve its anti-money laundering systems.

“Criminals love loopholes. They will always use them,” she said.

This fight against money-laundering was a very much dependent on the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), she said.

The Pilatus Bank case had revealed shortcomings, and the question was now to see whether this was just a one off case or part of a systemic problem.

The European Banking Authority is currently investigating the FIAU’s supervision of Pilatus Bank for potential breaches of EU anti-money laundering laws.

This investigation could potentially lead to infringement procedures being opened against Malta, the Commissioner said.

On the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Ms Jourová said she expected an independent investigation to establish who was behind the murder.

She said the mastermind behind this murder must not go unpunished.

Another area the Commission was following closely is the sale of citizenship, Ms Jourová said.

Read: Passport buyers’ origins to remain ‘a secret’

She said the Commission’s role was to ensure that the individuals gaining EU citizenship actually had a genuine link to the country in which they applied for it.

The Commission was carrying out an in-depth fact-finding study of all such schemes in the EU, she said.

Ms Jourová said that if the assessment of Malta’s scheme was not favourable, the Commission would work with the authorities on how to improve the scheme.

Asked if she was concerned about cryptocurrency exchanges in Malta currently operating in an unregulated environment, the Commissioner said the fifth anti-money laundering directive would seek to address these new trends and their possible risks.

Ms Jourová welcomed official confirmation received on Thursday that Malta would be joining the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

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