Malta has been added to the Financial Action Task Force’s greylist, joining 19 other countries that the anti-money laundering and terrorism financing organisation considers to be financially untrustworthy and have “strategic deficiencies.”
Malta, along with countries such as Albania, Myanmar, Syria, and Zimbabwe, has previously faced international criticism for the Panama Papers scandal, in which Maltese government figures implicated in the establishment of offshore companies received little legal action, and for the sale of national passports.
President of Malta, Robert Abela, spoke during a press conference about the FATF’s decision: “While I consider this decision unjust, we will continue the reform process because we are acting with conviction and believe in good governance.
“We remain committed to making whatever reforms are needed while preserving the national interest. We will never be uncooperative or obstructive but will intensify our resolve to fight money laundering and the financing of international terrorism.”
Opposition leader Bernard Grech, who joined Aela in criticising the Financial Action Task Force decision, called it a “national punishment,” while the government and the Malta Gaming Authority continue to defend the island’s financial security policies and infrastructure, pointing out that Maltese authorities are capable of combating illegal betting in collaboration with sporting bodies.
Important part of the economy
The government and financial leaders have good reason to be anxious about the FATF’s conclusion, because gambling and financial services are important parts of the country’s economy, and a decision declaring the island’s infrastructure to be monetarily unsound may have serious consequences.
Gambling, in particular, plays an important role in the country’s economic structure, directly and indirectly supporting over 9,000 jobs, producing €700 million yearly, and accounting for 12 percent of national GDP.
Malta may have to lift its veto on the signing of the Macolin Convention, a Council of Europe sports safeguarding and anti-corruption effort, in order to pass the FATF’s financial safety Moneyval test, according to an announcement made last week.
If completely ratified, the agreement would bar Malta’s licenced gambling operators from expanding their commercial operations outside of the country unless they followed the laws of the other member states, as part of a larger international betting industry restriction.