The Leader of the Opposition’s letter to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) was an ill-advised decision, a mistake, and a step too far.
Next week will be crucial for Malta. The FATF Plenary is expected to meet on Wednesday to decide on whether to put Malta on the greylist, as a “monitored jurisdiction having strategic deficiencies in its regimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing.”
On the table will be MONEYVAL’s technical report published last month, which green lighted Malta’s structural reforms conducted in the past year and a half.
With reports surfacing in the media that there is no consensus among FATF members on the way forward, Malta’s Leader of the Opposition rushed to his desk to issue a letter to the Executive Secretary of the Task Force and then recorded a video message to the Maltese public.
As time passes, the Opposition will realise that this was yet another mistaken decision, which was negatively received by the Maltese. In his reaction, the Leader of the Opposition did little to acknowledge the efforts made by the current administration to shake up Malta’s financial and legal framework, and pledged to restore Malta’s reputation if elected Prime Minister.
The Leader of the Opposition’s letter to the Financial Action Task Force was an ill-advised decision, a mistake, and a step too far.
What the Leader of the Opposition should have done was to offer Government full support both locally and abroad through well-established contacts, to convince FATF members that Malta has indeed turned the tide. This is what Maltese families and businesses expected from the Opposition, but sadly, once more, it failed to get the message and has missed another opportunity to send a message of unity.
There are a number of reasons why this should have been the obvious course of action for Bernard Grech:
Firstly, concrete changes have been made, most of which saw the Opposition’s blessing in Parliament. And the effectiveness of these changes was acknowledged by MONEYVAL itself, stating that Malta was among the first countries to become compliant or largely compliant with all FATF recommendations. Moreover, these changes are also being felt by Maltese people, with the recent Transparency International study confirming this.
Secondly, next week’s verdict should remain strictly technical and must never be turned political. Judgment should be made solely on whether Malta addressed the FATF recommendations. The greylisting of a country with zero non-compliance issues and only three low level of effectiveness points would be unprecedented. Iceland’s greylisting in 2019 was the result of six low levels of effectiveness and two non-compliance points. More astonishingly, the United States has four non-compliance issues but is not on the greylist.
Thirdly, should Malta be placed on the greylist, the whole of Malta would suffer. Not the government, nor the Labour Party, but everyone. This in itself should have been reason enough to get all hands on deck in our diplomatic efforts to convince other countries that Malta does not deserve to be greylisted.
All is still not lost as the coming days will be critical and decisive. Our size exposes us to the interests of the big players who will be carrying out this judgment. That’s why we must pull the same rope and think strategically, in the interest of Maltese families and businesses.