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Keeping up appearances - Theresa Cremona

I refer to the article by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna (July 18) where he once again attempts to portray that he, and his ministry, have all aspects of the nation’s financial sector under control in terms of the supervision and regulation of laws that have been enacted by previous and present governments.

As we have heard before, Scicluna explains any upset to the perception of the country’s proper financial administration by pointing fingers at Maltese members of the European Parliament who hail from the Opposition for executing their duty in highlighting the actual mess Malta is presently in.

Scicluna states: “Anti-money laundering is indeed a serious affair. The fight against tax evasion, drugs, arms trading, smuggling, corruption and terrorism can be effectively fought by discouraging the conduit of the financial proceeds of crime through financial institutions.”

So I ask, what did Scicluna do or say when certain red flags were raised regarding money laundering in Malta right under his nose?

The answer was, and still is, “nothing”.

A brief recollection of recent landmark events of national relevance include Jonathan Ferris who lost his job for raising the issue, Maria Efimova had to flee Malta with her family, Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated, Police Commissioner Michael Cassar resigned from his post, as did John Rizzo, Manfred Galdes resigned from his post, and possibly many more who quietly resigned from their jobs not to implicate themselves in any of the ongoing issues.

Any one of these high-profile events alone should have raised his awareness of serious misgivings within the financial sector but, once again, he appears to close an eye probably because the people concerned are his colleagues, his friends, or his boss who kept him safe in his job.

We all know the regulations are in place. The minister has told us this ad nauseam. When it comes to taking responsibility for his ministry’s shortcomings, he appears to act like a child covering up his misbehaviour by blaming somebody else.

What he seems to miss is that not only should he never have allowed himself to be placed in this situation but he should have never lowered Malta’s previous world-class standards to be exposed to money laundering. As Minister of Finance, he and his friends at Castille, continue to expose us to the ongoing risk of criminal activities in the crucial, sensitive sector of international finance. This has happened under Scicluna’s watch.

Scicluna blames bad publicity to a source in Malta. He has hit the nail on the head here. The source of this bad publicity is in Malta. It is he and his government who have created this mess we are in today. He is the Minister of Finance and must take responsibility for his actions or, most likely, the lack of any action.

Malta is ridiculed on the international scene for Scicluna’s inaction

In the last five years you have been at the helm of the decisions made in finance to continue to build on what the previous government left behind.

A new case of corruption is reported in the local media on a regular basis.

It is childish to blame the previous administration when in the past five years he has had ample time to rectify any potential negative situation that he may claim to have inherited from the previous administration.

The Pilatus Bank scenario was flagged months before Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad was arrested in the US. It appears that he had chosen to look the other way. Scicluna has surely left his mark here. Red flags were there and he chose to ignore them.

It may be one bank – Pilatus – whose directors/shareholders were caught out but it remains to be seen just how many more operate in Malta that go unnoticed or against which he, and his ministry, fail to take action. 

By now the European Banking Authority may have received many reports on Malta and its anti-money laundering failings. The EBA is finally taking action. Just like the European Union have taken action on other, non-financial, issues relating to Malta in the past weeks. And, similarly the EBA will eventually take action on other issues – be it in the coming weeks, months or years.

Enough is enough. Scicluna has pushed our country into this deplorable situation by his government’s approach to the accountability to higher authorities, to the electorate and the global financial world. 

In his last statement in the article, he states that “they will find my full support”. This is the least he can offer. Scicluna is  the Minister of Finance and he should not offer his support. He should be actively leading the “action plan” with the support of members of his ministry and the institutions.

He needs to have a proactive approach in his ministerial role, rather than a reactive role to justified criticism. Actions speak louder than words and he appears to have failed to take action against those mentioned as forerunners in the money laundering ventures in Malta.

Now Malta is ridiculed on the international scene for his inaction.

Scicluna is not fit for the job.

Theresa Cremona is a concerned citizen.

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