The FIAU trea­sure trove

Malta Independent - - GEJTU ON TUESDAY -

When he was speak­ing on the ad­journ­ment last Wed­nes­day night, for­mer Min­is­ter Manuel Mal­lia spoke, like the ex­pe­ri­enced crim­i­nal lawyer he is, on the FIAU – the body set up to com­bat money laun­der­ing.

Mal­lia went into de­tail to prove that no­body out­side the unit is au­tho­rised to see FIAU doc­u­ments, much less re­veal them. Han­dling them, let alone dis­sem­i­nat­ing them, is a crim­i­nal of­fence.

Pre­dictably, this be­ing Malta in 2017, when many try to re­place the late lamented Daphne Caru­ana Gal­izia, no sooner had Mal­lia had his say than two pa­pers ran the FIAU doc­u­ment on Pi­la­tus Bank, and an MEP even sent it to the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.

There are some very co­gent rea­sons why the law pro­tects the con­fi­den­tial­ity of the FIAU. First of all, the main and nor­mal in­ter­locu­tors of the unit are the com­pa­ra­ble anti-mon­ey­laun­der­ing units in dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

Se­condly, even within the FIAU there are var­i­ous lev­els of con­fi­den­tial­ity, such that even its own board has no right to be

Ed­i­tor’s pick

in­formed about the dif­fer­ent dossiers that the unit is in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

Thirdly, the FIAU can only pro­pose in­ves­ti­gat­ing this or that but then it is up to the po­lice and the at­tor­ney gen­eral to es­tab­lish if there are enough grounds for pros­e­cu­tion. As we can re­mem­ber from other leg­is­la­tures, there are times when the at­tor­ney gen­eral de­cides ‘Nolle pros­e­qui’ not take any fur­ther steps).

As Mal­lia pointed out, in­frac­tion of th­ese con­fi­den­tial­ity rules con­sti­tute crim­i­nal of­fences that can be pun­ished with fines and even prison terms. Real­is­ti­cally speak­ing, how­ever, no govern­ment would want to turn a pa­per or an MEP into a vic­tim, espe­cially in th­ese dra­matic times after Caru­ana Gal­izia’s mur­der.

That can mean, how­ever, that the FIAU door is wide open, and what should be a unit work­ing in con­fi­den­tial­ity be­comes the talk­ing point of the whole coun­try. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ed­ward Sci­cluna had even sug­gested, some time back, that some of the re­ports them­selves seem to have been writ­ten to be di­vulged. (do

The di­vul­gence of the FIAU files has been taken as proof that the po­lice and the at­tor­ney gen­eral are huge ob­sta­cles to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of money laun­der­ing, since no pros­e­cu­tion has fol­lowed from the unit’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions. But as Mal­lia pointed out, it is only the po­lice and the at­tor­ney gen­eral who can de­cide whether to pros­e­cute on the ba­sis of the con­clu­sions reached by FIAU.

It is, per­haps, a sad re­flec­tion on Malta’s cur­rent state that say­ing some­thing is con­fi­den­tial is like a red rag to a bull.

On the other hand, how­ever, the ab­sence of any sort of pros­e­cu­tion, and the fact that key per­sons men­tioned in the Panama Pa­pers and other leaks con­tinue in their jobs – and in one case, at least, are shown liv­ing it up with no care on their minds – along with the frus­tra­tion the coun­try feels at this state of af­fairs, all mil­i­tate in favour of more dis­clo­sures and for the gen­eral per­cep­tion that peo­ple in the wrong will go un­pun­ished.

Crim­i­nal ac­tions or not, the flow of dis­clo­sures seem des­tined to con­tinue.

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